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nSMase2 (Type 2-Neutral Sphingomyelinase) Deficiency or Inhibition by GW4869 Reduces Inflammation and Atherosclerosis in Apoe-/- MiceHighlights [Basic Sciences]

Objective—Atherosclerosis is a chronic multifactorial and inflammatory disease of large and medium arteries and the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases worldwide. The aim of this study was to investigate whether and how the nSMase2 (type 2-neutral sphingomyelinase), a key enzyme of sphingolipid metabolism, may contribute to the development of atherosclerotic lesions.Approach and Results—The role of nSMase2 in atherosclerosis was investigated in Apoe−/−;Smpd3fro/fro mice, mutant for nSMase2, and in Apoe−/−;Smpd3+/+ mice intraperitoneally injected with GW4869, a pharmacological nSMase2 inhibitor. The defect or inhibition of nSMase2 resulted in a reduction of atherosclerotic lesions and a decrease in macrophage infiltration and lipid deposition, although cholesterolemia remained unchanged. nSMase2 inhibition decreased the inflammatory response of murine endothelial cells to oxLDL (oxidized low-density lipoprotein), as assessed by the significant reduction of MCP-1 (monocyte chemoattractant protein 1), ICAM-1 (intercellular adhesion molecule-1), and VCAM-1 (vascular cell adhesion molecule-1) mRNA expressions and macrophage recruitment. Likewise, in RAW264.7 or in macrophages isolated from Apoe−/−/Smpd3fro/fro or Apoe−/−/Smpd3+/+ mice stimulated by lipopolysaccharides, nSMase2 inhibition resulted in a decrease in the expression of inflammatory molecules. Mechanistically, the anti-inflammatory response resulting from nSMase2 inhibition involves Nrf2 (nuclear factor [erythroid-derived 2]-like 2 or NF-E2–related factor-2) activation in both endothelial cells and macrophages, as assessed by the lack of protective effect of GW4869 in endothelial cells silenced for Nrf2 by small interfering RNAs, and in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated macrophages issued from Nrf2-KO mice.Conclusions—The genetic deficiency or inhibition of nSMase2 strongly decreases the development of atherosclerotic lesions in Apoe−/− mice, by reducing inflammatory responses through a mechanism involving the Nrf2 pathway. Inhibitors of nSMase2 may, therefore, constitute a novel approach to slow down atherosclerosis progression.

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