Characteristics of macrophage-derived foam cells isolated from atherosclerotic lesions of rabbits

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It is generally accepted that the foam cells in atherosclerotic lesions are derived mainly from monocytes/macrophages. We investigated whether the macrophage-derived foam cells, isolated from the atherosclerotic lesions of cholesterol-fed rabbits, would exhibit properties similar to those of blood monocytes in vitro and whether the cholesterol concentration of the macrophage-derived foam cells would decrease in the presence of an appropriate cholesterol acceptor in culture. We found that most (> 98%) of the foam cells isolated from atherosclerotic lesions were positive for anti- monocyte-macrophage antibody and nonspecific esterase. While almost all (> 98%) of the foam cells exhibited NaF-resistant, nonspecific esterase activity, the blood monocytes exhibited no such activity. Macrophage-derived foam cells contained larger amounts of cholesterol, most of it esterified, than the blood monocytes. Although blood monocytes exhibited a substantial amount of lysozyme, the freshly isolated, macrophage-derived foam cells showed no detectable lysozyme activity. The production of superoxide by macrophage-derived foam cells stimulated by PMA or opsonized zymosan was lower than that of stimulated monocytes. The cholesterol concentration of macrophage-derived foam cells decreased during five days of culture in the presence of an appropriate acceptor, such as normal and hypercholesterolemic rabbit serum and high density lipoprotein, although the rate of decrease was slow. Results suggest that macrophage-derived foam cells may be involved in both the progression and the regression of early atherosclerotic lesions.




Naito, M., Nomura, H., Esaki, T., & Iguchi, A. (1997). Characteristics of macrophage-derived foam cells isolated from atherosclerotic lesions of rabbits. Atherosclerosis, 135(2), 241–247.

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