, Volume 89, Issue 6, pp 555-567,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 21 Jan 2011

Regression and stabilization of advanced murine atherosclerotic lesions: a comparison of LDL lowering and HDL raising gene transfer strategies


Both reductions in atherogenic lipoproteins and increases in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels may affect atherosclerosis regression. Here, the relative potential of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) lowering and HDL raising gene transfer strategies to induce regression of complex murine atherosclerotic lesions was directly compared. Male C57BL/6 LDL receptor (LDLr)−/− mice were fed an atherogenic diet (1.25% cholesterol and 10% coconut oil) to induce advanced atherosclerotic lesions. A baseline group was killed after 6 months and remaining mice were randomized into a control progression (Adnull or saline), an apolipoprotein (apo) A-I (AdA-I), an LDLr (AdLDLr), or a combined apo A-I/LDLr (AdA-I/AdLDLr) adenoviral gene transfer group and followed-up for another 12 weeks with continuation of the atherogenic diet. Gene transfer with AdLDLr decreased non-HDL cholesterol levels persistently by 95% (p < 0.001) compared with baseline. This drastic reduction of non-HDL cholesterol levels induced lesion regression by 28% (p < 0.001) in the aortic root and by 25% (p < 0.05) in the brachiocephalic artery at 12 weeks after transfer. Change in lesion size was accompanied by enhanced plaque stability, as evidenced by increased collagen content, reduced lesional macrophage content, a drastic reduction of necrotic core area, and decreased expression of inflammatory genes. Elevated HDL cholesterol following AdA-I transfer increased collagen content in lesions, but did not induce regression. Apo A-I gene transfer on top of AdLDLr transfer resulted in additive effects, particularly on inflammatory gene expression. In conclusion, drastic lipid lowering induced by a powerful gene transfer strategy leads to pronounced regression and stabilization of advanced murine atherosclerosis.