Circulation research

Human Alternative Macrophages Populate Calcified Areas of Atherosclerotic Lesions and Display Impaired RANKL-Induced Osteoclastic Bone Resorption Activity.

PMID 28438779


Vascular calcification is a process similar to bone formation leading to an inappropriate deposition of calcium phosphate minerals in advanced atherosclerotic plaques. Monocyte-derived macrophages, located in atherosclerotic lesions and presenting heterogeneous phenotypes, from classical proinflammatory M1 to alternative anti-inflammatory M2 macrophages, could potentially display osteoclast-like functions. To characterize the phenotype of macrophages located in areas surrounding the calcium deposits in human atherosclerotic plaques. Macrophages near calcium deposits display an alternative phenotype being both CD68 and mannose receptor-positive, expressing carbonic anhydrase type II, but relatively low levels of cathepsin K. In vitro interleukin-4-polarization of human primary monocytes into macrophages results in lower expression and activity of cathepsin K compared with resting unpolarized macrophages. Moreover, interleukin-4 polarization lowers expression levels of the osteoclast transcriptional activator nuclear factor of activated T cells type c-1, associated with increased gene promoter levels of the transcriptional repression mark H3K27me3 (histone 3 lysine 27 trimethylation). Despite higher expression of the receptor activator of nuclear factor κB receptor, receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand/macrophage colony-stimulating factor induction of nuclear factor of activated T cells type c-1 and cathepsin K expression is defective in these macrophages because of reduced Erk/c-fos-mediated downstream signaling resulting in impaired bone resorption capacity. These results indicate that macrophages surrounding calcium deposits in human atherosclerotic plaques are phenotypically defective being unable to resorb calcification.