Neovascularization has been linked to the progression and vulnerability of atherosclerotic lesions. Angiogenesis is increased in lipid-rich plaque. Hypoxia-inducible factor alpha (HIF-1α) is a key transcriptional regulator responding to hypoxia and activating genes, which promote angiogenesis, among them vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) is generated in lipid-rich plaque by oxidative stress. It triggers an inflammatory response and was traditionally thought to inhibit endothelial cells. New data, however, suggest that oxLDL can activate HIF-1α in monocytes in a hypoxia-independent fashion. We hypothesized that HIF-1α activation in monocyte-macrophages could transmit proangiogenic effects of oxLDL linking hyperlipidemia, inflammation, and angiogenesis in atherosclerosis. First, we examined the effect of oxLDL on HIF-1α and VEGF expression in monocyte-macrophages and on their proangiogenic effect on endothelial cells in vitro in a monocyte-macrophage/endothelial co-culture model. OxLDL strongly induced HIF-1α and VEGF in monocyte-macrophages and significantly increased tube formation in co-cultured endothelial cells. HIF-1α inhibition reversed this effect. Second, we demonstrated a direct proangiogenic effect of oxLDL in an in vivo angiogenesis assay. Again, HIF-1α inhibition abrogated the proangiogenic effect of oxLDL. Third, in a rabbit atherosclerosis model, we studied the effect of dietary lipid lowering on arterial HIF-1α and VEGF expression. The administration of low-lipid diet significantly reduced the expression of both HIF-1α and VEGF, resulting in decreased plaque neovascularization. Our data point to oxLDL as a proangiogenic agent linking hyperlipidemia, inflammation, and angiogenesis in atherosclerosis. This effect is dependent on macrophages and, at least in part, on the induction of the HIF-1α pathway.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Pharmaceutical Science
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine