BACKGROUND - Scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI) is expressed in macrophages, where it has been proposed to facilitate cholesterol efflux. However, direct evidence that the expression of macrophage SR-BI is protective against atherosclerosis is lacking. In this study, we examined the in vivo role of macrophage SR-BI in atherosclerotic lesion development in the apolipoprotein (apo) E-deficient mouse model.
METHODS AND RESULTS - ApoE-deficient mice with (n=16) or without (n=15) expression of macrophage SR-BI were created by transplanting lethally irradiated apoE-deficient mice with bone marrow cells collected from SR-BI-/- apoE-/- mice or SR-BI+/+ apoE-/- mice. The recipient mice were fed a chow diet for 12 weeks after transplantation for analysis of atherosclerosis. Quantification of macrophage SR-BI mRNA by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction indicated successful engraftment of donor bone marrow and inactivation of macrophage SR-BI in recipient mice reconstituted with SR-BI-/- apoE-/- bone marrow. There were no significant differences in plasma lipid levels, lipoprotein distributions, and HDL subpopulations between the 2 groups. Analysis of the proximal aorta demonstrated an 86% increase in mean atherosclerotic lesion area in SR-BI-/- apoE-/- --> apoE-/- mice compared with SR-BI+/+ apoE-/- --> apoE-/- mice (109.50+/-18.08 versus 58.75+/-9.58x10(3) microm2; mean+/-SEM, P=0.017). No difference in cholesterol efflux from SR-BI+/+ apoE-/- or SR-BI-/- apoE-/- macrophages to HDL or apoA-I discs was detected.
CONCLUSIONS - Expression of macrophage SR-BI protects mice against atherosclerotic lesion development in apoE-deficient mice in vivo without influencing plasma lipids, HDL subpopulations, or cholesterol efflux. Thus, macrophage SR-BI plays an antiatherogenic role in vivo, providing a new therapeutic target for the design of strategies to prevent and treat atherosclerosis.