Absence of Nicotinamide Nucleotide Transhydrogenase in C57BL/6J Mice Exacerbates Experimental Atherosclerosis

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Background: Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) contribute to inflammation and vascular remodeling during atherosclerotic plaque formation. C57BL/6N (6N) and C57BL/6J (6J) mice display distinct mitochondrial redox balance due to the absence of nicotinamide nucleotide transhydrogenase (NNT) in 6J mice. We hypothesize that differential NNT expression between these animals alters plaque development. Methods: 6N and 6J mice were treated with AAV8-PCSK9 (adeno-associated virus serotype 8/proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9) virus leading to hypercholesterolemia, increased low-density lipoprotein, and atherosclerosis in mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD). Mice were co-treated with the mitochondria-targeted superoxide dismutase mimetic MitoTEMPO to assess the contribution of mitochondrial ROS to atherosclerosis. Results: Baseline and HFD-induced vascular superoxide is increased in 6J compared to 6N mice. MitoTEMPO diminished superoxide in both groups demonstrating differential production of mitochondrial ROS among these strains. PCSK9 treatment and HFD led to similar increases in plasma lipids in both 6N and 6J mice. However, 6J animals displayed significantly higher levels of plaque formation. MitoTEMPO reduced plasma lipids but did not affect plaque formation in 6N mice. In contrast, MitoTEMPO surprisingly increased plaque formation in 6J mice. Conclusion: These data indicate that loss of NNT increases vascular ROS production and exacerbates atherosclerotic plaque development.

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