Recent evidence suggests that dendritic cells may play an important role in atherosclerosis. Based primarily on previous in vitro studies, we hypothesized that granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF)-deficient mice would have decreased dendritic cells in lesions.Methods and Results—
To test this, we characterized gene targeted GM-CSF−/− mice crossed to hypercholesterolemic low-density lipoprotein receptor null mice. Our results provide conclusive evidence that GM-CSF is a major regulator of dendritic cell formation in vivo. Aortic lesion sections in GM-CSF−/− low-density lipoprotein receptor null animals showed a dramatic 60% decrease in the content of dendritic cells as judged by CD11c staining but no change in the overall content of monocyte-derived cells. The GM-CSF–deficient mice exhibited a significant 20% to 50% decrease in the size of aortic lesions, depending on the location of the lesions. Other prominent changes in GM-CSF−/− mice were decreased lesional T cell content, decreased autoantibodies to oxidized lipids, and striking disruptions of the elastin fibers adjacent to the lesion.Conclusion—
Given that GM-CSF is dramatically induced by oxidized lipids in endothelial cells, our data suggest that GM-CSF serves to regulate dendritic cell formation in lesions and that this, in turn, influences inflammation, plaque growth and possibly plaque stability.