The CCL5/CCR5 Axis Promotes Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Proliferation and Atherogenic Phenotype Switching

Chin Sheng Lin, Po Shiuan Hsieh, Ling Ling Hwang, Yen Hsien Lee, Shih Hung Tsai, Yun Chin Tu, Yao Wen Hung, Cheng Che Liu, Yi Ping Chuang, Min Tser Liao, Shu Chien, Min Chien Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aims: Hyperlipidemia induces dysfunction in the smooth muscle cells (SMCs) of the blood vessels, and the vascular remodeling that ensues is a key proatherogenic factor contributing to cardiovascular events. Chemokines and chemokine receptors play crucial roles in vascular remodeling. Here, we examined whether the hyperlipidemia-derived chemokine CCL5 and its receptor CCR5 influence vascular SMC proliferation, phenotypic switching, and explored the underlying mechanisms. Methods: Thoracoabdominal aorta were isolated from wild-type, CCL5 and CCR5 double-knockout mice (CCL5-/-CCR5-/-) fed a high-fat diet (HFD) for 12 weeks. Expression of the contractile, synthetic, and proliferation markers were assayed using immunohistochemical and western blotting. The effects of CCL5 and palmitic acid on cultured SMC proliferation and phenotypic modulation were evaluated using flow cytometry, bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), and western blotting. Results: Wild-type mice fed an HFD showed markedly increased total cholesterol, triglyceride, and CCL5 serum levels, as well as significantly increased CCL5 and CCR5 expression in the thoracoabdominal aorta vs. normal-diet-fed controls. HFD-fed CCL5-/-CCR5-/- mice showed significantly decreased expression of the synthetic phenotype marker osteopontin and the proliferation marker proliferating cell nuclear antigen, and increased expression of the contractile phenotype marker smooth muscle α-actin in the thoracoabdominal aorta vs. wild-type HFD-fed mice. Human aorta-derived SMCs stimulated with palmitic acid showed significantly increased expression of CCL5, CCR5, and synthetic phenotype markers, as well as increased proliferation. CCL5-treated SMCs showed increased cell cycle regulatory protein expression, paralleling increased synthetic and decreased contractile phenotype marker expression. Inhibition of CCR5 activity by the specific antagonist maraviroc or its expression using small interfering RNA significantly inhibited human aortic SMC proliferation and synthetic phenotype formation. Therefore, CCL5 induces SMC proliferation and phenotypic switching from a contractile to synthetic phenotype via CCR5. CCL5-mediated SMC stimulation activated ERK1/2, Akt/p70S6K, p38 MAPK, and NF-κB signaling. NF-κB inhibition significantly reduced CCR5 expression along with CCR5-induced SMC proliferation and synthetic phenotype formation. Conclusions: Hyperlipidemia-induced CCL5/CCR5 axis activation serves as a pivotal mediator of vascular remodeling, indicating that CCL5 and CCR5 are key chemokine-related factors in atherogenesis. SMC proliferation and synthetic phenotype transformation attenuation by CCR5 pharmacological inhibition may offer a new approach to treatment or prevention of atherosclerotic diseases associated with hyperlipidemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-720
Number of pages14
JournalCellular Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Chemokine
  • Chemokine receptor
  • Phenotypic switching
  • Smooth muscle cell proliferation
  • Vascular remodeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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