Receptor-independent fluid-phase macropinocytosis promotes arterial foam cell formation and atherosclerosis

Hui Ping Lin, Bhupesh Singla, Won Mo Ahn, Pushpankur Ghoshal, Maria Blahove, Mary Cherian-Shaw, Alex Chen, April Haller, David Y. Hui, Kunzhe Dong, Jiliang Zhou, Joseph White, Alexis M. Stranahan, Agnieszka Jasztal, Rudolf Lucas, Brian K. Stansfield, David Fulton, Stefan Chlopicki, Gábor Csányi

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3 Scopus citations


Accumulation of lipid-laden foam cells in the arterial wall plays a central role in atherosclerotic lesion development, plaque progression, and late-stage complications of atherosclerosis. However, there are still fundamental gaps in our knowledge of the underlying mechanisms leading to foam cell formation in atherosclerotic arteries. Here, we investigated the role of receptor-independent macropinocytosis in arterial lipid accumulation and pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Genetic inhibition of fluid-phase macropinocytosis in myeloid cells (LysMCre+ Nhe1fl/fl) and repurposing of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug that inhibits macrophage macropinocytosis substantially decreased atherosclerotic lesion development in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor-deficient and Apoe-/- mice. Stimulation of macropinocytosis using genetic (H-RASG12V) and physiologically relevant approaches promoted internalization of unmodified native (nLDL) and modified [e.g., acetylated (ac) and oxidized (ox) LDL] lipoproteins in both wild-type and scavenger receptor (SR) knockout (Cd36-/-/Sra-/-) macrophages. Pharmacological inhibition of macropinocytosis in hypercholesterolemic wild-type and Cd36-/-/Sra-/- mice identified an important role of macropinocytosis in LDL uptake by lesional macrophages and development of atherosclerosis. Furthermore, serial section high-resolution imaging, LDL immunolabeling, and three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of subendothelial foam cells provide visual evidence of lipid macropinocytosis in both human and murine atherosclerotic arteries. Our findings complement the SR paradigm of atherosclerosis and identify a therapeutic strategy to counter the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberadd2376
JournalScience Translational Medicine
Issue number663
StatePublished - Sep 21 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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