EC4, a truncation of soluble N-cadherin, reduces vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis and markers of atherosclerotic plaque instability

Cressida A Lyon, Jason L Johnson, Stephen White, Graciela B Sala-Newby, Sarah J George

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Atherosclerotic plaque instability is precipitated by vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis in the fibrous cap, weakening it and leading to plaque rupture. We previously showed that reducing smooth muscle cell apoptosis with soluble N-cadherin (SNC) increased features of plaque stability. We have now identified the active site of SNC and examined whether a truncated form containing this site retains the antiapoptotic effect. SNC was mutated to prevent interaction with N-cadherin or fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR). Interaction with FGFR in the extracellular (EC) 4 domain of SNC was essential for the antiapoptotic effect. Therefore, we made a truncated form consisting of the EC4 domain. EC4 significantly reduced smooth muscle cell, macrophage, and endothelial cell apoptosis in vitro by ~70%, similar to SNC. Elevation of plasma levels of EC4 in male apolipoprotein E-deficient mice with existing atherosclerosis significantly reduced apoptosis in brachiocephalic artery plaques by ~50%. EC4 reduced plaque size and the incidence of buried fibrous layers and the macrophage:smooth muscle cell ratio (surrogate markers of plaque instability). Interaction of EC4 with FGFR induced potent antiapoptotic signaling in vitro and in vivo. EC4 modulates atherosclerosis in mice demonstrating its therapeutic potential for retarding plaque size and instability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14004
JournalMolecular therapy. Methods & clinical development
Early online date14 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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