Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), or gelatinase B, has been hypothesized to be involved in the progression of atherosclerosis. In the arterial wall, accumulated macrophages secrete considerable amounts of MMP-9 but its pathophysiological functions in atherosclerosis have not been fully elucidated. To examine the hypothesis that macrophage-derived MMP-9 may affect atherosclerosis, we created MMP-9 transgenic (Tg) rabbits to overexpress the rabbit MMP-9 gene under the control of the scavenger receptor A enhancer/promoter and examined their susceptibility to cholesterol diet-induced atherosclerosis. Tg rabbits along with non-Tg rabbits were fed a cholesterol diet for 16 and 28 weeks, and their aortic and coronary atherosclerosis was compared. Gross aortic lesion areas were significantly increased in female Tg rabbits at 28 weeks; however, pathological examination revealed that all the lesions of Tg rabbits fed a cholesterol diet for either 16 or 28 weeks were characterized by increased monocyte/macrophage accumulation and prominent lipid core formation compared with those of non-Tg rabbits. Macrophages isolated from Tg rabbits exhibited higher infiltrative activity towards a chemoattractant, MCP-1 in vitro and augmented capability of hydrolysing extracellular matrix in granulomatous tissue. Surprisingly, the lesions of Tg rabbits showed more advanced lesions with remarkable calcification in both aortas and coronary arteries. In conclusion, macrophage-derived MMP-9 facilitates the infiltration of monocyte/macrophages into the lesions thereby enhancing the progression of atherosclerosis. Increased accumulation of lesional macrophages may promote vascular calcification.©2020 University of Yamanashi. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine published by Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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