Constitutive CD40 Signaling in Dendritic Cells Limits Atherosclerosis by Provoking Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Ensuing Cholesterol Malabsorption

Pascal Kusters, Tom Seijkens, Christina Buerger, Bart Legein, Holger Winkels, Marion Gijbels, Christian Barthels, Remy Bennett, Linda Beckers, Dorothee Atzler, Erik Biessen, Thomas Brocker, Christian Weber, Norbert Gerdes, Esther Lutgenst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The costimulatory molecule CD40 is a major driver of atherosclerosis. It is expressed on a wide variety of cell types, including mature dendritic cells (DCs), and is required for optimal T-cell activation and expansion. It remains undetermined whether and how CD40 on DCs impacts the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Here, the effects of constitutively active CD40 in DCs on atherosclerosis were examined using low-density lipoprotein-deficient (Lair(-/-)) bone marrow chimeras that express a transgene containing an engineered latent membrane protein 1 (LMP)/CD40 fusion protein conferring constitutive CD40 signaling under control of the DC-specific CD11c promoter (DC-LMP1/CD40). As expected, DC-LMP1/CD40/Ldir(-/-) chimeras (DC-LMP1/CD40) showed increased antigen-presenting capacity of DCs and increased T-cell numbers. However, the mice developed extensive neutrophilia compared to CD4Owt/Ldlr(-/-) (CD40wt) chimeras. Despite overt T-cell expansion and neutrophilia, a reduction in conventional DC frequency and a dramatic (approximately 80%) reduction in atherosclerosis was observed. Further analyses revealed that cholesterol and triglyceride levels had decreased by 37% and 60%, respectively, in DC-LMP1/CD40 chimeras. Moreover, DC-LMP1/CD40 chimeras developed inflammatory bowel disease characterized by massive transmural influx of leukocytes and Lymphocytes, resulting in villous degeneration and lipid malabsorption. Constitutive activation of CD40 in DCs results in inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, thereby impairing lipid uptake, which consequently results in attenuated atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2912-2919
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


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