PloS one

Chronic over-expression of heat shock protein 27 attenuates atherogenesis and enhances plaque remodeling: a combined histological and mechanical assessment of aortic lesions.

PMID 23409070


Expression of Heat Shock Protein-27 (HSP27) is reduced in human coronary atherosclerosis. Over-expression of HSP27 is protective against the early formation of lesions in atherosclerosis-prone apoE(-/-) mice (apoE(-/-)HSP27(o/e)) - however, only in females. We now seek to determine if chronic HSP27 over-expression is protective in a model of advanced atherosclerosis in both male and female apoE(-/-) mice. After 12 weeks on a high fat diet, serum HSP27 levels rose more than 16-fold in male and female apoE(-/-)HSP27(o/e) mice, although females had higher levels than males. Relative to apoE(-/-) mice, female apoE(-/-)HSP27(o/e) mice showed reductions in aortic lesion area of 35% for en face and 30% for cross-sectional sinus tissue sections - with the same parameters reduced by 21% and 24% in male cohorts; respectively. Aortic plaques from apoE(-/-)HSP27(o/e) mice showed almost 50% reductions in the area occupied by cholesterol clefts and free cholesterol, with fewer macrophages and reduced apoptosis but greater intimal smooth muscle cell and collagen content. The analysis of the aortic mechanical properties showed increased vessel stiffness in apoE(-/-)HSP27(o/e) mice (41% in female, 34% in male) compare to apoE(-/-) counterparts. Chronic over-expression of HSP27 is atheroprotective in both sexes and coincides with reductions in lesion cholesterol accumulation as well as favorable plaque remodeling. These data provide new clues as to how HSP27 may improve not only the composition of atherosclerotic lesions but potentially their stability and resilience to plaque rupture.