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Objective-: Apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I) has been shown to possess several atheroprotective functions, including inhibition of inflammation. Protease-secreting activated mast cells reside in human atherosclerotic lesions. Here we investigated the effects of the neutral proteases released by activated mast cells on the anti-inflammatory properties of apoA-I.

Approach and Results-: Activation of human mast cells triggered the release of granule-associated proteases chymase, tryptase, cathepsin G, carboxypeptidase A, and granzyme B. Among them, chymase cleaved apoA-I with the greatest efficiency and generated C-terminally truncated apoA-I, which failed to bind with high affinity to human coronary artery endothelial cells. In tumor necrosis factor-[alpha]-activated human coronary artery endothelial cells, the chymase-cleaved apoA-I was unable to suppress nuclear factor-[kappa]B-dependent upregulation of vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) and to block THP-1 cells from adhering to and transmigrating across the human coronary artery endothelial cells. Chymase-cleaved apoA-I also had an impaired ability to downregulate the expression of tumor necrosis factor-[alpha], interleukin-1[beta], interleukin-6, and interleukin-8 in lipopolysaccharide-activated GM-CSF (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor)- and M-CSF (macrophage colony-stimulating factor)-differentiated human macrophage foam cells and to inhibit reactive oxygen species formation in PMA (phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate)-activated human neutrophils. Importantly, chymase-cleaved apoA-I showed reduced ability to inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vivo in mice. Treatment with chymase blocked the ability of the apoA-I mimetic peptide L-4F, but not of the protease-resistant D-4F, to inhibit proinflammatory gene expression in activated human coronary artery endothelial cells and macrophage foam cells and to prevent reactive oxygen species formation in activated neutrophils.

Conclusions-: The findings identify C-terminal cleavage of apoA-I by human mast cell chymase as a novel mechanism leading to loss of its anti-inflammatory functions. When targeting inflamed protease-rich atherosclerotic lesions with apoA-I, infusions of protease-resistant apoA-I might be the appropriate approach.

(C) 2016 American Heart Association, Inc.