Atherosclerosis, a pathology affecting large and medium-sized arteries, is the major cause of cardiovascular morbidity/mortality in industrialized countries. During atherosclerosis, cells accumulate large amounts of cholesterol through the uptake of modified low-density lipoprotein particles to form foam cells. This accumulation forms the basis for the development of the disease and for a large spectrum of other diseases in various organs. Massive research efforts have yielded valuable information about the underlying molecular mechanisms of atherosclerosis. In particular, newer discoveries on the early stage of lesion formation, cholesterol accumulation, reverse cholesterol transport, and local inflammation in the vascular wall have opened unanticipated horizons of understanding and raised novel questions and therapeutic opportunities. In this review, we focus on Wnt signaling, which has received little attention so far, yet affects lysosomal function and signalling pathways that limit cholesterol accumulation. This occurs in different tissues and cell types, including smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells and macrophages in the arterial wall, and thus profoundly impacts on atherosclerotic disease development and progression.
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