Targeting Coagulation Factor Xa Promotes Regression of Advanced Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein-E Deficient Mice

Jelle J. Posthuma, Jens J. N. Posma, Rene van Oerle, Peter Leenders, Rick H. van Gorp, Armand M. G. Jaminon, Nigel Mackman, Stefan Heitmeier, Leon J. Schurgers, Hugo ten Cate, Henri M. H. Spronk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Atherosclerosis is a progressive inflammatory vascular disorder, complicated by plaque rupture and subsequently atherothrombosis. In vitro studies indicate that key clotting proteases, such as factor Xa (FXa), can promote atherosclerosis, presumably mediated through protease activated receptors (PARs). Although experimental studies showed reduced onset of atherosclerosis upon FXa inhibition, the effect on pre-existing plaques has never been studied. Therefore, we investigated effects of FXa inhibition by rivaroxaban on both newly-formed and pre-existing atherosclerotic plaques in apolipoprotein-e deficient (ApoE(-/-)) mice. Female ApoE(-/-) mice (age: 8-9 weeks, n = 10/group) received western type diet (WTD) or WTD supplemented with rivaroxaban (1.2 mg/g) for 14 weeks. In a second arm, mice received a WTD for 14 weeks, followed by continuation with either WTD or WTD supplemented with rivaroxaban (1.2 mg/g) for 6 weeks (total 20 weeks). Atherosclerotic burden in aortic arch was assessed by haematoxilin & eosin immunohistochemistry (IHC); plaque vulnerability was examined by IHC against macrophages, collagen, vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). In addition, PAR1 and -2 expressions and their main activators thrombin and FXa in the plaque were determined in the plaque. Administration of rivaroxaban at human therapeutic concentrations reduced the onset of atherosclerosis (-46%, p <0.05), and promoted a regression of pre-existing plaques in the carotids (-24%, p <0.001). In addition, the vulnerability of pre-existing plaques was reduced by FXa inhibition as reflected by reduced macrophages (-39.03%, p <0.05), enhanced collagen deposition (+38.47%, p <0.05) and diminished necrotic core (-31.39%, p <0.05). These findings were accompanied with elevated vascular smooth muscle cells and reduced MMPs. Furthermore, expression of PARs and their activators, thrombin and FXa was diminished after rivaroxaban treatment. Pharmacological inhibition of FXa promotes regression of advanced atherosclerotic plaques and enhances plaque stability. These data suggest that inhibition of FXa may be beneficial in prevention and regression of atherosclerosis, possibly mediated through reduced activation of PARs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3909
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2019



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