OBJECTIVE: The first objective was to investigate if intracellular and extracellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) within the mouse aorta increase before or after diet-induced lesion formation. The second objective was to investigate if intracellular and extracellular ROS correlates to cell composition in atherosclerotic lesions. The third objective was to investigate if intracellular and extracellular ROS levels within established atherosclerotic lesions can be reduced by lipid lowering by diet or atorvastatin. APPROACH AND RESULTS: To address our objectives, we established a new imaging technique to visualize and quantify intracellular and extracellular ROS levels within intact mouse aortas ex vivo. Using this technique, we found that intracellular, but not extracellular, ROS levels increased prior to lesion formation in mouse aortas. Both intracellular and extracellular ROS levels were increased in advanced lesions. Intracellular ROS correlated with lesion content of macrophages. Extracellular ROS correlated with lesion content of smooth muscle cells. The high levels of ROS in advanced lesions were reduced by 5 days high dose atorvastatin treatment but not by lipid lowering by diet. Atorvastatin treatment did not affect lesion inflammation (aortic arch mRNA levels of CXCL 1, ICAM-1, MCP-1, TNF-alpha, VCAM, IL-6, and IL-1beta) or cellular composition (smooth muscle cell, macrophage, and T-cell content). CONCLUSIONS: Aortic levels of intracellular ROS increase prior to lesion formation and may be important in initiation of atherosclerosis. Our results suggest that within lesions, macrophages produce mainly intracellular ROS whereas smooth muscle cells produce extracellular ROS. Short term atorvastatin treatment, but not lipid lowering by diet, decreases ROS levels within established advanced lesions; this may help explain the lesion stabilizing and anti-inflammatory effects of long term statin treatment.
Ekstrand, M., Trajkovska, M. G., Perman-Sundelin, J., Fogelstrand, P., Adiels, M., Johansson, M., … Levin, M. (2015). Imaging of intracellular and extracellular ROS levels in atherosclerotic mouse aortas ex vivo: Effects of lipid lowering by diet or atorvastatin. PLoS ONE, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130898