Image_1_Defective Autophagy in T Cells Impairs the Development of Diet-Induced Hepatic Steatosis and Atherosclerosis.TIF (578.06 kB)
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Image_1_Defective Autophagy in T Cells Impairs the Development of Diet-Induced Hepatic Steatosis and Atherosclerosis.TIF

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posted on 12.12.2018, 04:20 authored by Jacob Amersfoort, Hidde Douna, Frank H. Schaftenaar, Amanda C. Foks, Mara J. Kröner, Peter J. van Santbrink, Gijs H. M. van Puijvelde, Ilze Bot, Johan Kuiper

Macroautophagy (or autophagy) is a conserved cellular process in which cytoplasmic cargo is targeted for lysosomal degradation. Autophagy is crucial for the functional integrity of different subsets of T cells in various developmental stages. Since atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the vessel wall which is partly characterized by T cell mediated autoimmunity, we investigated how advanced atherosclerotic lesions develop in mice with T cells that lack autophagy-related protein 7 (Atg7), a protein required for functional autophagy. Mice with a T cell-specific knock-out of Atg7 (Lck-Cre Atg7f/f) had a diminished naïve CD4+ and CD8+ T cell compartment in the spleen and mediastinal lymph node as compared to littermate controls (Atg7f/f). Lck-Cre Atg7f/f and Atg7f/f mice were injected intravenously with rAAV2/8-D377Y-mPCSK9 and fed a Western-type diet to induce atherosclerosis. While Lck-Cre Atg7f/f mice had equal serum Proprotein Convertase Subtilisin/Kexin type 9 levels as compared to Atg7f/f mice, serum cholesterol levels were significantly diminished in Lck-Cre Atg7f/f mice. Histological analysis of the liver revealed less steatosis, and liver gene expression profiling showed decreased expression of genes associated with hepatic steatosis in Lck-Cre Atg7f/f mice as compared to Atg7f/f mice. The level of hepatic CD4+ and CD8+ T cells was greatly diminished but both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells showed a relative increase in their IFNγ and IL-17 production upon Atg7 deficiency. Atg7 deficiency furthermore reduced the hepatic NKT cell population which was decreased to < 0.1% of the lymphocyte population. Interestingly, T cell-specific knock-out of Atg7 decreased the mean atherosclerotic lesion size in the tri-valve area by over 50%. Taken together, T cell-specific deficiency of Atg7 resulted in a decrease in hepatic steatosis and limited inflammatory potency in the (naïve) T cell compartment in peripheral lymphoid tissues, which was associated with a strong reduction in experimental atherosclerosis.

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