Macrophage Activation and Differentiation with Cholesterol Crystals
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Cholesterol crystals have been linked to activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome and the formation of foreign body giant cells (FBGCs). It has been hypothesized that FBGCs have a role in advanced atherosclerotic plaque formation. This thesis examined the feasibility of producing stable cultures of FBGCs starting with human monocytes with the goal to examine pterin production by these cells in comparison to human monocyte derived macrophages (HMDMs). The study also investigated the effect of cholesterol crystals on 7,8-dihydroneopterin (7,8-NP) production and modulation of IL-1β levels in macrophages. 7,8-Dihydroneopterin is a potent antioxidant generated by macrophages which also down regulates the expression of macrophage scavenger receptor CD36. The use of alpha-tocopherol and IL-4 as FBGC fusion mediators was explored. Using these mediators, large numbers of FBGC were successfully cultured. The rates of fusion achieved in the cultures were low, and the cells had poor adhesion, which prevented pterin measurement. FBGC, which are thought to remove crystallized cholesterol from the plaque, cleared 21% of cholesterol crystal compared to 50% cleared by HMDM cells. Due to this result, the effect of cholesterol crystals on pterin production in monocytes and macrophages was explored. Cholesterol crystals cause inflammation through the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, however, it was unknown whether they could modulate 7,8-NP production. Cholesterol crystals caused an intracellular dose-dependent loss of 7,8-NP to its oxidized form, neopterin, in HMDM cells. Cholesterol crystals induced intracellular synthesis of 7,8-NP in HMDMs. 7,8-NP was released into the supernatant and oxidized to neopterin in media. Monocytes treated with cholesterol crystals released up to 100 nM of neopterin and 120 nM of 7,8-NP in the media after 48 hours. The combination of IFN- and cholesterol crystals appeared to inhibit the release of 7,8-NP into the media for the first 48 hours, after this time 7,8-NP release rapidly increased. The addition of exogenous 200 μM 7,8-NP showed that in the presence of monocytes, cholesterol crystals did not cause the oxidation of 7,8-NP to neopterin, as seen in HMDMs but possibly to 7,8-dihydroxanthopterin or xanthopterin. The presence of 7,8-NP increased IL-1β expression in the presence of cholesterol crystals after 24 hours incubation. FBGCs and the removal of cholesterol crystals may be a key process in the resolution of atherosclerotic plaques. It appears that cholesterol crystals are able to modulate inflammatory processes including activation of the inflammasome and balance of 7,8-dihydroneopterin to the oxidized neopterin. The infiltrating monocytes may provide antioxidant protection against the inflammation induced by cholesterol crystals and the activity of the infammasome.