The role of phagocytosis in the development of atherosclerotic lesions in the rabbit

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      An attempt was made to clarify the role of phagocytic cells in the formation of arterial lesions in cholesterol-fed rabbits. No evidence was found for phagocytosis of either serum lipoproteins or emulsified lesion material (ELM) from cholesterol-fed animals by either granulocytes or macrophages in vitro although artificially prepared cholesterol particles and polystyrene latex particles appeared to be phagocytosed by both of these cell types. The uptake of ELM cholesterol was always less than that of cholesterol particles and was not accompanied by the usual metabolic responses to phagocytosis (e.g. increased synthesis of phosphatidylinositol and increased production of 14C02 from [1-14C]glucose). Peritoneal macrophages from cholesterol-fed rabbits do, however, accumulate cholesterol in some manner in vivo. The cholesterol content as well as the ratio of esterified to free cholesterol in these cells was comparable to that reported for foam cells obtained from arterial lesions. Only slight differences in cholesterol content of peritoneal granulocytes from control and cholesterol-fed rabbits were observed.
      It was concluded, therefore, that although the macrophage may be involved in lipid accumulation in the rabbit aorta, our data do not support the hypothesis that phagocytosis of lipids by foam cells in the aorta accounts for much of the aortic lipid accumulation.


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