DNA glycosylase Neil3 regulates vascular smooth muscle cell biology during atherosclerosis development
Quiles-Jiménez, Ana M T; Gregersen, Ida; Segers, Filip; Skarpengland, Tonje; Kroustallaki, Pinelopi; Yang, Kuan; Kong, Xiang Yi; Lauritzen, Knut Husø; Olsen, Maria Belland; Karlsen, Tom Rune; Nyman, Tuula Anneli; Sagen, Ellen Lund; Bjerkeli, Vigdis; Suganthan, Rajikala; Nygård, Ståle; Scheffler, Katja; Prins, Jurriën; Van der Veer, Eric; Øgaard, Jonas; Fløisand, Yngvar; Jørgensen, Helle F.; Holven, Kirsten Bjørklund; Biessen, Erik A.L.; Nilsen, Hilde; Dahl, Tuva Børresdatter; Holm, Sverre; Bennett, Martin R.; Aukrust, Pål; Bjørås, Magnar; Halvorsen, Bente
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAtherosclerosis. 2021, 324 123-132. 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2021.02.023
Background and aims Atherogenesis involves a complex interaction between immune cells and lipids, processes greatly influenced by the vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) phenotype. The DNA glycosylase NEIL3 has previously been shown to have a role in atherogenesis, though whether this is due to its ability to repair DNA damage or to other non-canonical functions is not yet clear. Hereby, we investigate the role of NEIL3 in atherogenesis, specifically in VSMC phenotypic modulation, which is critical in plaque formation and stability. Methods Chow diet-fed atherosclerosis-prone Apoe−/− mice deficient in Neil3, and NEIL3-abrogated human primary aortic VSMCs were characterized by qPCR, and immunohistochemical and enzymatic-based assays; moreover, single-cell RNA sequencing, mRNA sequencing, and proteomics were used to map the molecular effects of Neil3/NEIL3 deficiency in the aortic VSMC phenotype. Furthermore, BrdU-based proliferation assays and Western blot were performed to elucidate the involvement of the Akt signaling pathway in the transdifferentiation of aortic VSMCs lacking Neil3/NEIL3. Results We show that Neil3 deficiency increases atherosclerotic plaque development without affecting systemic lipids. This observation was associated with a shift in VSMC phenotype towards a proliferating, lipid-accumulating and secretory macrophage-like cell phenotype, without changes in DNA damage. VSMC transdifferentiation in Neil3-deficient mice encompassed increased activity of the Akt signaling pathway, supported by cell experiments showing Akt-dependent proliferation in NEIL3-abrogated human primary aortic VSMCs. Conclusions Our findings show that Neil3 deficiency promotes atherosclerosis development through non-canonical mechanisms affecting VSMC phenotype involving activation of the Akt signaling pathway.