Diabetes Adversely Affects Macrophages During Atherosclerotic Plaque Regression in Mice

  1. Edward A. Fisher1,3
  1. 1Department of Medicine and the Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology/Marc and Ruti Bell Program in Vascular Biology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York
  3. 3Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.
  1. Corresponding author: Edward A. Fisher, edward.fisher{at}


OBJECTIVE Patients with diabetes have increased cardiovascular risk. Atherosclerosis in these patients is often associated with increased plaque macrophages and dyslipidemia. We hypothesized that diabetic atherosclerosis involves processes that impair favorable effects of lipid reduction on plaque macrophages.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Reversa mice are LDL receptor–deficient mice that develop atherosclerosis. Their elevated plasma LDL levels are lowered after conditional knockout of the gene encoding microsomal triglyceride transfer protein. We examined the morphologic and molecular changes in atherosclerotic plaques in control and streptozotocin-induced diabetic Reversa mice after LDL lowering. Bone marrow–derived macrophages were also used to study changes mediated by hyperglycemia.

RESULTS Reversa mice were fed a western diet for 16 weeks to develop plaques (baseline). Four weeks after lipid normalization, control (nondiabetic) mice had reduced plasma cholesterol (−77%), plaque cholesterol (−53%), and plaque cells positive for macrophage marker CD68+ (−73%), but increased plaque collagen (+116%) compared with baseline mice. Diabetic mice had similarly reduced plasma cholesterol, but collagen content increased by only 34% compared with baseline; compared with control mice, there were lower reductions in plaque cholesterol (−30%) and CD68+ cells (−41%). Diabetic (vs. control) plaque CD68+ cells also exhibited more oxidant stress and inflammatory gene expression and less polarization toward the anti-inflammatory M2 macrophage state. Many of the findings in vivo were recapitulated by hyperglycemia in mouse bone marrow–derived macrophages.

CONCLUSIONS Diabetes hindered plaque regression in atherosclerotic mice (based on CD68+ plaque content) and favorable changes in plaque macrophage characteristics after the reduction of elevated plasma LDL.


  • Received June 2, 2010.
  • Accepted March 7, 2011.

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