Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has been shown to accelerate atherosclerosis and to increase the prevalence of IL-4-producing natural killer T (NKT) cells in various tissues. However, the role of NKT cells in the development of LPS-induced atherosclerotic lesions has not been fully tested in NKT cell-deficient mice. Here, we examined the lesion development in apolipoprotein E knockout (apoE-KO) mice and apoE-KO mice on an NKT cell-deficient, CD1d knockout (CD1d-KO) background (apoE-CD1d double knockout; DKO). LPS (0.5 μg/g body weight/wk) or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) was intraperitoneally administered to apoE-KO and DKO mice (8-wk old) for 5 wk and atherosclerotic lesion areas were quantified thereafter. Consistent with prior reports, NKT cell-deficient DKO mice showed milder atherosclerotic lesions than apoE-KO mice. Notably, LPS administration significantly increased the lesion size in apoE-KO, but not in DKO mice, compared to PBS controls. Our findings suggest that LPS, and possibly LPS-producing bacteria, aggravate the development of atherosclerosis primarily through NKT cell activation and subsequent collaboration with NK cells.
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