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Molecular role of Cx37 in advanced atherosclerosis: a micro-array study.
Recently, we showed that connexin37 (Cx37) protects against early atherosclerotic lesion development by regulating monocyte adhesion. The expression of this gap junction protein is altered in mouse and human atherosclerotic lesions; it is increased in macrophages newly recruited to the lesions and disappears from the endothelium of advanced plaques. To obtain more insight into the molecular role of Cx37 in advanced atherosclerosis, we used micro-array analysis for gene expression profiling in aortas of ApoE(-/-) and Cx37(-/-)ApoE(-/-) mice before and after 18 weeks of cholesterol-rich diet. Out of >15,000 genes, 106 genes were significantly differentially expressed in young mice before diet (P-value of <0.05, fold change of >0.7 or <-0.7, and intensity value >2.2 times background). Ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA) revealed differences in genes involved in cell-to-cell signaling and interaction, cellular compromise and nutritional disease. In addition, we identified 100 genes that were significantly perturbed after the cholesterol-rich diet. Similar to the analysis on 10-week-old mice, IPA revealed differences in genes involved in cell-to-cell signaling and interaction as well as to immuno-inflammatory disease. Furthermore, we found important changes in genes involved in vascular calcification and matrix degradation, some of which were confirmed at protein level by (immuno-)histochemistry. In conclusion, we suggest that Cx37 deficiency alters the global differential gene expression profiles in young mice towards a pro-inflammatory phenotype, which are then further influenced in advanced atherosclerosis. The results provide new insights into the significance of Cx37 in plaque calcification.
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