Netrin-1 and the Grade of Atherosclerosis Are Inversely Correlated in Humans

Caroline S. Bruikman, Dianne Vreeken, Renate M. Hoogeveen, Michiel J. Bom, Ibrahim Danad, Sara-Joan Pinto-Sietsma, Anton Jan van Zonneveld, Paul Knaapen, G. Kees Hovingh, Erik S. G. Stroes, Janine M. van Gils

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OBJECTIVE: Netrin-1 has been shown to play a role in the initiation of atherosclerosis in mice models. However, little is known about the role of Netrin-1 in humans. We set out to study whether Netrin-1 is associated with different stages of atherosclerosis. Approach and Results: Plasma Netrin-1 levels were measured in different patient cohorts: (1) 22 patients with high cardiovascular risk who underwent arterial wall inflammation assessment using positron-emission tomography / computed tomography, (2) 168 patients with a positive family history of premature atherosclerosis in whom coronary artery calcium scores were obtained, and (3) 104 patients with chest pain who underwent coronary computed tomography angiography imaging to evaluate plaque vulnerability and burden. Netrin-1 plasma levels were negatively correlated with arterial wall inflammation (β, -0.01 [95% CI, 0.02 to -0.01] R2, 0.61; P<0.0001), and concentrations of Netrin-1 were significantly lower when atherosclerosis was present compared with individuals without atherosclerosis (28.01 versus 10.51 ng/mL, P<0.001). There was no difference in Netrin-1 plasma concentrations between patients with stable versus unstable plaques (11.17 versus 11.74 ng/mL, P=0.511). However, Netrin-1 plasma levels were negatively correlated to total plaque volume (β, -0.09 [95% CI, -0.11 to -0.08] R2, 0.57, P<0.0001), calcified plaque volumes (β, -0.10 [95% CI, -0.12 to -0.08] R2, 0.53; P<0.0001), and noncalcified plaque volumes (β, -0.08 [95% CI, -0.10 to -0.06] R2, 0.41; P<0.0001). Treatment of inflammatory stimulated endothelial cells with plasma with high Netrin-1 level resulted in reduced endothelial inflammation and consequently, less monocyte adhesion. CONCLUSIONS: Netrin-1 plasma levels are lower in patients with subclinical atherosclerosis and in patients with arterial wall inflammation. Netrin-1 is not associated with plaque vulnerability; however, it is negatively correlated to plaque burden, suggesting that Netrin-1 is involved in some, but not all, stages of atherosclerosis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-472
Number of pages11
JournalArteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Endothelium
  • Inflammation
  • Monocyte
  • Netrin-1
  • Risk

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