AIMS: CD40 and its ligand, CD40L, play a critical role in driving atherosclerotic plaque development. Disrupted CD40-signaling reduces experimental atherosclerosis and induces a favourable stable plaque phenotype. We recently showed that small molecule-based inhibition of CD40-TNF Receptor Associated Factor-6 interactions attenuates atherosclerosis in hyperlipidaemic mice via macrophage-driven mechanisms. The present study aims to detail the function of myeloid CD40 in atherosclerosis using myeloid-specific CD40-deficient mice.

METHOD AND RESULTS: Cd40flox/flox and LysM-cre Cd40flox/flox mice on an Apoe-/- background were generated (CD40wt and CD40mac-/-, respectively). Atherosclerotic lesion size, as well as plaque macrophage content, were reduced in CD40mac-/- compared to CD40wt mice and their plaques displayed a reduction in necrotic core size. Transcriptomics analysis of the CD40mac-/- atherosclerotic aorta revealed downregulated pathways of immune pathways and inflammatory responses.Loss of CD40 in macrophages changed the representation of aortic macrophage subsets. Mass cytometry analysis revealed a higher content of a subset of alternative or resident-like CD206 + CD209b- macrophages in the atherosclerotic aorta of CD40mac-/- compared to CD40wt mice. RNA-sequencing of bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) of CD40mac-/- mice demonstrated upregulation of genes associated with alternatively activated macrophages (including Folr2, Thbs1, Sdc1 and Tns1).

CONCLUSIONS: We here show that absence of CD40 signalling in myeloid cells reduces atherosclerosis and limits systemic inflammation by preventing a shift in macrophage polarization towards pro-inflammatory states. Our study confirms the merit of macrophage-targeted inhibition of CD40 as a valuable therapeutic strategy to combat atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCardiovascular Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 May 2022

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