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Genital Chlamydia infection in hyperlipidemic mouse models exacerbates atherosclerosis

      Highlights

      • Genital Chlamydia infection exacerbated atherosclerosis in two independent hyperlipidemic mouse models of atherosclerosis.
      • Chlamydia infection increased pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and VCAM-1 expression.
      • Interestingly, Chlamydia infection showed uterine pathology only in apoE-deficient mice.

      Abstract

      Background and aims

      Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease, and recent studies have shown that infection at remote sites can contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis in hyperlipidemic mouse models. In this report, we tested the hypothesis that genital Chlamydia infection could accelerate the onset and progression of atherosclerosis.

      Methods

      Apolipoprotein E (Apoe−/−) and LDL receptor knockout (Ldlr−/−) mice on a high-fat diet were infected intra-vaginally with Chlamydia muridarum. Atherosclerotic lesions on the aortic sinuses and in the descending aorta were assessed at 8-weeks post-infection. Systemic, macrophage, and vascular site inflammatory responses were assessed and quantified.

      Results

      Compared to the uninfected groups, infected Apoe−/− and Ldlr−/− mice developed significantly more atherosclerotic lesions in the aortic sinus and in the descending aorta. Increased lesions were associated with higher circulating levels of serum amyloid A-1, IL-1β, TNF-α, and increased VCAM-1 expression in the aortic sinus, suggesting an association with inflammatory responses observed during C. muridarum infection. Genital infection courses were similar in Apoe−/−, Ldlr−/−, and wild type mice. Further, Apoe−/− mice developed severe uterine pathology with increased dilatations. Apoe-deficiency also augmented cytokine/chemokine response in C. muridarum infected macrophages, suggesting that the difference in macrophage response could have contributed to the genital pathology in Apoe−/− mice.

      Conclusions

      Overall, these studies demonstrate that genital Chlamydia infection exacerbates atherosclerotic lesions in hyperlipidemic mouse and suggest a novel role for Apoe in full recovery of uterine anatomy after chlamydial infection.

      Graphical abstract

      Keywords

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