Increased levels of CCR7 ligands in carotid atherosclerosis: different effects in macrophages and smooth muscle cells

Bente Halvorsen*, Tuva B. Dahl, Linda M. Smedbakken, Anjana Singh, Annika E. Michelsen, Mona Skjelland, Kirsten Krohg-Sorensen, David Russell, Uta E. Hoepken, Martin Lipp, Jan K. Damas, Sverre Holm, Arne Yndestad, Erik A. Biessen, Pal Aukrust

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims The homeostatic chemokines, CCL19 and CCL21 and their receptor CCR7, have recently been linked to atherogenesis. We investigated the expression of CCL19/CCL21/CCR7 in carotid atherosclerosis as well as the ability of these chemokines to modulate lipid accumulation in macrophages and vascular smooth muscle cell (SMC) phenotype. Methods and results Our major findings were: (i) patients with carotid atherosclerosis (n = 158) had increased plasma levels of CCL21, but not of CCL19, compared with controls (n = 20), with particularly high levels in symptomatic (n = 99) when compared with asymptomatic (n = 59) disease. (ii) Carotid plaques showedmarkedly increasedmRNAlevels of CCL21andCCL19 in symptomatic (n = 14) when compared with asymptomatic (n = 7) patients, with CCR7 localized to macrophages and vascular SMC (immunohistochemistry). (iii) In vitro, CCL21, but not CCL19, increased the binding of modified LDL and promoted lipid accumulation in THP-1 macrophages. (iv) CCL19, but not CCL21, increased proliferation and release and activity of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) 1 in vascular SMC. (v) The differential effects of CCL19 and CCL21 in macrophages and SMC seem to be attributable to divergent signalling pathways, with CCL19-mediated activation of AKT in SMC-and CCL21-mediated activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 in macrophages. Conclusion CCL19 and CCL21 are up-regulated in carotid atherosclerosis. The ability of CCL21 to promote lipid accumulation in macrophages and of CCL19 to induce proliferation and MMP-1 expression in vascular SMC could contribute to their pro-atherogenic potential.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-156
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Inflammation
  • Chemokines
  • SMC
  • Macrophages

Cite this