Scientific reports

TWEAK blockade decreases atherosclerotic lesion size and progression through suppression of STAT1 signaling in diabetic mice.

PMID 28447667


Tumor necrosis factor-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK/Tnfsf12) is a cytokine implicated in different steps associated with vascular remodeling. However, the role of TWEAK under hyperglycemic conditions is currently unknown. Using two different approaches, genetic deletion of Tnfsf12 and treatment with a TWEAK blocking mAb, we have analyzed the effect of TWEAK inhibition on atherosclerotic plaque progression and stability in streptozotocin-induced diabetic ApoE deficient mice. Genetic inactivation of Tnfsf12 reduced atherosclerosis extension and severity in diabetic ApoE deficient mice. Tnfsf12 deficient mice display a more stable plaque phenotype characterized by lower lipid and macrophage content within atherosclerotic plaques. A similar phenotype was observed in diabetic mice treated with anti-TWEAK mAb. The proatherosclerotic effects of TWEAK were mediated, at least in part, by STAT1 activation and expression of proinflammatory target genes (CCL5, CXCL10 and ICAM-1), both in plaques of ApoE mice and in cultured vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) under hyperglycemic conditions. Loss-of-function experiments demonstrated that TWEAK induces proinflammatory genes mRNA expression through its receptor Fn14 and STAT1 activation in cultured VSMCs. Overall, TWEAK blockade delay plaque progression and alter plaque composition in diabetic atherosclerotic mice. Therapies aimed to inhibit TWEAK expression and/or function could protect from diabetic vascular complications.