Vascular calcification (VC) is concomitant with atherosclerosis, yet it remains uncertain why rupture-prone high-risk plaques do not typically show extensive calcification. Intraplaque hemorrhage (IPH) deposits erythrocyte-derived cholesterol, enlarging the necrotic core and promoting high-risk plaque development. Pro-atherogenic CD163+ alternative macrophages engulf hemoglobin:haptoglobin (HH) complexes at IPH sites. However, their role in VC has never been examined to our knowledge. Here we show, in human arteries, the distribution of CD163+ macrophages correlated inversely with VC. In vitro experiments using vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) cultured with HH-exposed human macrophage — M(Hb) — supernatant reduced calcification, while arteries from ApoE–/– CD163–/– mice showed greater VC. M(Hb) supernatant–exposed VSMCs showed activated NF-κB, while blocking NF-κB attenuated the anticalcific effect of M(Hb) on VSMCs. CD163+ macrophages altered VC through NF-κB–induced transcription of hyaluronan synthase (HAS), an enzyme that catalyzes the formation of the extracellular matrix glycosaminoglycan, hyaluronan, within VSMCs. M(Hb) supernatants enhanced HAS production in VSMCs, while knocking down HAS attenuated its anticalcific effect. NF-κB blockade in ApoE–/– mice reduced hyaluronan and increased VC. In human arteries, hyaluronan and HAS were increased in areas of CD163+ macrophage presence. Our findings highlight an important mechanism by which CD163+ macrophages inhibit VC through NF-κB–induced HAS augmentation and thus promote the high-risk plaque development.
Atsushi Sakamoto, Rika Kawakami, Masayuki Mori, Liang Guo, Ka Hyun Paek, Jose Verdezoto Mosquera, Anne Cornelissen, Saikat Kumar B. Ghosh, Kenji Kawai, Takao Konishi, Raquel Fernandez, Daniela T. Fuller, Weili Xu, Aimee E. Vozenilek, Yu Sato, Hiroyuki Jinnouchi, Sho Torii, Adam W. Turner, Hirokuni Akahori, Salome Kuntz, Craig C. Weinkauf, Parker J. Lee, Robert Kutys, Kathryn Harris, Alfred Lawrence Killey, Christina M. Mayhew, Matthew Ellis, Leah M. Weinstein, Neel V. Gadhoke, Roma Dhingra, Jeremy Ullman, Armella Dikongue, Maria E. Romero, Frank D. Kolodgie, Clint L. Miller, Renu Virmani, Aloke V. Finn