Clinical interventions targeting nonlipid risk factors are needed given the high residual risk of atherothrombotic events despite effective control of dyslipidemia. Dickkopf-1 (DKK1) plays a lipid-independent role in vascular pathophysiology but its involvement in atherosclerosis development and its therapeutic attractiveness remain to be established.
Patient data, in vitro studies and pharmacological intervention in murine models of atherosclerosis were utilized.
In patients’ material (n = 127 late stage plaque specimens and n = 10 control vessels), DKK1 mRNA was found to be higher in atherosclerotic plaques versus control arteries. DKK1 protein was detected in the luminal intimal area and in the necrotic core of plaques. DKK1 was released from isolated primary human platelets (~12 – 21-fold) and endothelial cells (~1.4-2.5-fold) upon stimulation with different pathophysiological stimuli. In ApoE and Ldlr mice, plasma DKK1 concentrations were similar to those observed in humans, whereas DKK1 expression in different atheroprone arterial segments was very low/absent. Chronic treatment with a neutralizing DKK1 antibody effectively reduced plasma concentrations, however, plaque lesion area was not reduced in ApoE and Ldlr mice fed a western diet for 14 and 16 weeks. Anti-DKK1 treatment increased bone volume and bone mineral content.
Functional inhibition of DKK1 with an antibody does not alter atherosclerosis progression in classical murine models. This may reflect the absence of DKK1 expression in plaques and more advanced animal disease models could be needed to evaluate the role and therapeutic attractiveness of DKK1 in late stage complications such as plaque destabilization, calcification, rupture and thrombosis.

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