Nonclassical mouse monocyte (CX3CR1high, Ly-6Clow) patrolling along the vessels of the microcirculation is critical for endothelial homeostasis and inflammation. Because of technical challenges, it is currently not established how patrolling occurs in large arteries.Objective:
This study was undertaken to elucidate the molecular, migratory, and functional phenotypes of patrolling monocytes in the high shear and pulsatile environment of large arteries in healthy, hyperlipidemic, and atherosclerotic conditions.Methods and Results:
Applying a new method for stable, long-term 2-photon intravital microscopy of unrestrained large arteries in live CX3CR1-GFP (green fluorescent protein) mice, we show that nonclassical monocytes patrol inside healthy carotid arteries at a velocity of 36 μm/min, 3× faster than in microvessels. The tracks are less straight but lead preferentially downstream. The number of patrolling monocytes is increased 9-fold by feeding wild-type mice a Western diet or by applying topical TLR7/8 (Toll-like receptor) agonists. A similar increase is seen in CX3CR1+/GFP/apoE−/− mice on chow diet, with a further 2- to 3-fold increase on Western diet (22-fold over healthy). In plaque conditions, monocytes are readily captured onto the endothelium from free flow. Stable patrolling is unaffected in CX3CR1-deficient mice and involves the contribution of LFA-1 (lymphocyte-associated antigen 1) and α4 integrins. The endothelial damage in atherosclerotic carotid arteries was assessed by electron microscopy and correlates with the number of intraluminal patrollers. Abolishing patrolling monocytes in Nr4a1−/− apoE−/− mice leads to pronounced endothelial apoptosis.Conclusions:
Arterial patrolling is a prominent new feature of nonclassical monocytes with unique molecular and kinetic properties. It is highly upregulated in hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis in a CX3CR1-independent fashion and plays a potential role in endothelial protection.