Kindlin 3 (FERMT3) is associated with unstable atherosclerotic plaques, anti-inflammatory type II macrophages and upregulation of beta-2 integrins in all major arterial beds.

PMID 26188538


Kindlins (FERMT) are cytoplasmic proteins required for integrin (ITG) activation, leukocyte transmigration, platelet aggregation and thrombosis. Characterization of kindlins and their association with atherosclerotic plaques in human(s) is lacking. Exploratory microarray (MA) was first performed followed by selective quantitative validation of robustly expressed genes with qRT-PCR low-density array (LDA). In LDA, ITGA1 (1.30-fold, p = 0.041) and ITGB3 (1.37-fold, p = 0.036) were upregulated in whole blood samples of patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) compared to healthy controls. In arterial plaques, both robustly expressed transcript variants of FERMT3 (MA: 5.90- and 3.4-fold; LDA: 3.99-fold, p < 0.0001 for all) and ITGB2 (MA: 4.81- and 4.92-fold; LDA: 5.29-fold, p < 0.0001 for all) were upregulated while FERMT2 was downregulated (MA: -1.61-fold; LDA: -2.88-fold, p < 0.0001 for both). The other integrins (ITGA1, ITGAV, ITGB3, ITGB5) were downregulated. All these results were replicated in at least one arterial bed. The latter FERMT3 transcript variant associated with unstable plaques (p = 0.0004). FERMT3 correlated with M2 macrophage markers and in hierarchical cluster analysis clustered with inflammatory and macrophage markers, while FERMT2 correlated with SMC-rich plaque markers and clustered with SMC markers. In confocal immunofluorescence analysis, FERMT3 protein colocalized with abundant CD68-positive cells of monocytic origin in the atherosclerotic plaques, while co-localization of FERMT3 with HHF35 indicative of smooth muscle cells was low. Kindlin-3 (FERMT3) is upregulated in atherosclerotic, especially unstable plaques, mainly in cells of monocytic origin and of M2 type. Simultaneous upregulation of ITGB2 suggests a synergistic effect on leukocyte adherence and transmigration into the vessel wall.

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