OBJECTIVE - Chronic kidney disease (CKD) amplifies atherosclerosis, which involves renin-angiotensin system (RAS) regulation of macrophages. RAS influences peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ), a modulator of atherogenic functions of macrophages, however, little is known about its effects in CKD. We examined the impact of combined therapy with a PPARγ agonist and angiotensin receptor blocker on atherogenesis in a murine uninephrectomy model.
METHODS - Apolipoprotein E knockout mice underwent uninephrectomy (UNx) and treatment with pioglitazone (UNx + Pio), losartan (UNx + Los), or both (UNx + Pio/Los) for 10 weeks. Extent and characteristics of atherosclerotic lesions and macrophage phenotypes were assessed; RAW264.7 and primary peritoneal mouse cells were used to examine pioglitazone and losartan effects on macrophage phenotype and inflammatory response.
RESULTS - UNx significantly increased atherosclerosis. Pioglitazone and losartan each significantly reduced the atherosclerotic burden by 29.6% and 33.5%, respectively; although the benefit was dramatically augmented by combination treatment which lessened atherosclerosis by 55.7%. Assessment of plaques revealed significantly greater macrophage area in UNx + Pio/Los (80.7 ± 11.4% vs. 50.3 ± 4.2% in UNx + Pio and 57.2 ± 6.5% in UNx + Los) with more apoptotic cells. The expanded macrophage-rich lesions of UNx + Pio/Los had more alternatively activated, Ym-1 and arginine 1-positive M2 phenotypes (Ym-1: 33.6 ± 8.2%, p < 0.05 vs. 12.0 ± 1.1% in UNx; arginase 1: 27.8 ± 0.9%, p < 0.05 vs. 11.8 ± 1.3% in UNx). In vitro, pioglitazone alone and together with losartan was more effective than losartan alone in dampening lipopolysaccharide-induced cytokine production, suppressing M1 phenotypic change while enhancing M2 phenotypic change.
CONCLUSION - Combination of pioglitazone and losartan is more effective in reducing renal injury-induced atherosclerosis than either treatment alone. This benefit reflects mitigation in macrophage cytokine production, enhanced apoptosis, and a shift toward an anti-inflammatory phenotype.
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