• Depletion of FOXP3+ regulatory T cells promotes hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis.

      Klingenberg, Roland; Gerdes, Norbert; Badeau, Robert M; Gisterå, Anton; Strodthoff, Daniela; Ketelhuth, Daniel F J; Lundberg, Anna M; Rudling, Mats; Nilsson, Stefan K; Olivecrona, Gunilla; et al. (2013-03-01)
      Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease promoted by hyperlipidemia. Several studies support FOXP3-positive regulatory T cells (Tregs) as inhibitors of atherosclerosis; however, the mechanism underlying this protection remains elusive. To define the role of FOXP3-expressing Tregs in atherosclerosis, we used the DEREG mouse, which expresses the diphtheria toxin (DT) receptor under control of the Treg-specific Foxp3 promoter, allowing for specific ablation of FOXP3+ Tregs. Lethally irradiated, atherosclerosis-prone, low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient (Ldlr(-/-)) mice received DEREG bone marrow and were injected with DT to eliminate FOXP3(+) Tregs. Depletion of Tregs caused a 2.1-fold increase in atherosclerosis without a concomitant increase in vascular inflammation. These mice also exhibited a 1.7-fold increase in plasma cholesterol and an atherogenic lipoprotein profile with increased levels of VLDL. Clearance of VLDL and chylomicron remnants was hampered, leading to accumulation of cholesterol-rich particles in the circulation. Functional and protein analyses complemented by gene expression array identified reduced protein expression of sortilin-1 in liver and increased plasma enzyme activity of lipoprotein lipase, hepatic lipase, and phospholipid transfer protein as mediators of the altered lipid phenotype. These results demonstrate that FOXP3(+) Tregs inhibit atherosclerosis by modulating lipoprotein metabolism.