Publications by authors named "Fabienne Burger"

53 Publications

Prognostic and therapeutic considerations of antibodies against c-ter apolipoprotein A-1 in the general population.

Clin Transl Immunology 2020 14;9(12):e1220. Epub 2020 Dec 14.

Department of Internal Medicine Lausanne University Hospital Lausanne Switzerland.

Objectives: Autoantibodies against apolipoprotein A1 (anti-apoA1 IgGs) and its C-terminal region (cter apoA1) have emerged as an independent biomarker for cardiovascular disease. Cter apoA1 mimetic peptides were shown to reverse the deleterious anti-apoA1 IgG effects . We evaluated the association of anti-cter apoA1 IgGs with overall mortality in the general population and tested the ability of a cter apoA1 mimetic peptide to reverse the anti-apoA1 IgG-induced inflammatory response and mortality and , respectively.

Methods: Anti-cter apoA1 IgGs were measured in serum samples of 6386 participants of the CoLaus study of which 5220 were followed for a median duration of 5.6 years. The primary outcome was overall mortality. The peptide inhibitory concentration 50% (IC) was determined on HEK-Blue-4 and RAW cells. ApoE mice were exposed to 16 weeks of anti-apoA1IgG passive immunisation with and without peptide co-incubation.

Results: Anti-cter apoA1 IgGs were associated with higher interleukin 6 levels and independently predicted overall mortality; an increase of one standard deviation of anti-cter apoA1 IgG level was associated with an 18% increase in mortality risk (hazard ratio: 1.18, 95% confidence interval: 1.04-1.33;  = 0.009). The cterApoA1 analogue reversed the antibody-mediated inflammatory response with an IC of 1 µm but did not rescue the significant anti-apoA1 IgG-induced mortality rate (69% vs. 23%, LogRank  = 0.02).

Conclusion: Anti-cter apoA1 IgG independently predicts overall mortality in the general population. Despite being effective , our cter apoA1 analogue did not reverse the anti-apoA1 IgG-induced mortality in mice. Our data suggest that these autoantibodies are not readily treatable through cognate peptide immunomodulation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cti2.1220DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7734471PMC
December 2020

Atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability is increased in mouse model of lupus.

Sci Rep 2020 10 27;10(1):18324. Epub 2020 Oct 27.

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, Department of Medicine Specialties, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Av. de la Roseraie 64, 1211, Geneva 4, Switzerland.

Anti-apolipoprotein A-1 (anti-apoA-1 IgG) and anti-double stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA IgG) autoantibodies have been described as mediators of atherogenesis in mice and humans. In the present study, we aim to investigate the association between atherosclerotic parameters, autoantibodies and plaque vulnerability in the context of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We therefore bred a lupus prone-mouse model (Nba2.Yaa mice) with Apoe mice resulting in ApoeNba2.Yaa mice spontaneously producing anti-apoA-1 IgG antibodies. Although ApoeNba2.Yaa and Apoe mice subject to a high cholesterol diet displayed similar atherosclerosis lesions size in aortic roots and abdominal aorta, the levels of macrophage and neutrophil infiltration, collagen, MMP-8 and MMP-9 and pro-MMP-9 expression in ApoeNba2.Yaa mice indicated features of atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability. Even though ApoeNba2.Yaa mice and Apoe mice had similar lipid levels, ApoeNba2.Yaa mice showed higher anti-apoA-1 and anti-dsDNA IgG levels. ApoeNba2.Yaa mice displayed a reduction of the size of the kidney, splenomegaly and lymph nodes (LN) hypertrophy. In addition, anti-apoA-1 and anti-dsDNA IgG increased also in relation with mRNA levels of GATA3, IL-4, Bcl-6 and CD20 in the spleen and aortic arch of ApoeNba2.Yaa mice. Our data show that although atherosclerosis-lupus-prone ApoeNba2.Yaa mice did not exhibit exacerbated atherosclerotic lesion size, they did show features of atherosclerotic plaque destabilization in correlation with the increase of pro-atherogenic autoantibodies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-74579-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7591560PMC
October 2020

Anti-Apolipoprotein A-1 IgG Influences Neutrophil Extracellular Trap Content at Distinct Regions of Human Carotid Plaques.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 10 19;21(20). Epub 2020 Oct 19.

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, Department of Medicine Specialties, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Av. de la Roseraie 64, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.

Background: Neutrophils accumulate in atherosclerotic plaques. Neutrophil extracellular traps (NET) were recently identified in experimental atherosclerosis and in complex human lesions. However, not much is known about the NET marker citrullinated histone-3 (H3Cit) expression and functionality in human carotid plaques. Moreover, the association between the proatherosclerotic autoantibody anti-apolipoprotein A-1 (anti-ApoA-1 IgG) and NET has never been investigated.

Methods: Atherosclerotic plaques have been obtained from 36 patients with severe carotid stenosis that underwent carotid endarterectomy for severe carotid stenosis. Samples were sectioned into upstream and downstream regions from the same artery segment. Plaque composition and expression of NET markers neutrophil elastase (NE) and H3Cit were quantified by immunohistochemistry. H3Cit expression and function was evaluated by immunofluorescence and confocal analysis in a subset of patients.

Results: Pathological features of vulnerable phenotypes were exacerbated in plaques developed at downstream regions, including higher accumulation of neutrophils and enhanced expression of NE and H3Cit, as compared to plaques from upstream regions. The H3Cit signal was also more intense in downstream regions, with significant extracellular distribution in spaces outside of neutrophils. The percentage of H3Cit colocalization with CD66b (neutrophils) was markedly lower in downstream portions of carotid plaques, confirming the extrusion of NET in this region. In agreement, the maximum distance of the H3Cit signal from neutrophils, extrapolated from vortex distance calculation in all possible directions, was also higher in downstream plaques. The serum anti-ApoA-1index positively correlated with the expression of H3Cit in downstream segments of plaques. Expression of the H3Cit signal outside of neutrophils and H3Cit maximal distance from CD66b-positive cells increased in plaques from serum positive anti-ApoA-1 patients compared with serum negative patients.

Conclusion: NET elements are differentially expressed in upstream versus downstream regions of human carotid plaques and may be influenced by circulating levels of anti-ApoA-1 IgG. These findings could warrant the investigation of NET elements as potential markers of vulnerability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21207721DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7588926PMC
October 2020

Cardiotrophin-1 Deficiency Abrogates Atherosclerosis Progression.

Sci Rep 2020 04 1;10(1):5791. Epub 2020 Apr 1.

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Research, Department of Medicine Specialized Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Av. de la Roseraie 64, CH-1211, Geneva 4, Switzerland.

Cardiotrophin-1 (CT-1) is associated with cardiovascular (CV) diseases. We investigated the effect of CT-1 deficiency in the development and progression of atherosclerosis in double knockout Apoect-1 mice. Apoe C57Bl/6 or Apoect-1 C57Bl/6 mice were fed a normal chow diet (NCD) or a high-cholesterol diet (HCD). After sacrifice, serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), free fatty acids and systemic paracrine factors were measured. Intraplaque lipid and collagen content were quantified in the aortic sections. Immune cell populations in spleen, lymph nodes and aorta were analysis by flow cytometry. Apoect-1 mice in accelerated atherosclerosis exhibited a reduction of total cholesterol, LDL-C, atherosclerotic plaques size in the aortic root and in the abdominal aorta and improved plaque stability in comparison to Apoe mice. CT-1 deficiency in Apoe mice on (HCD) promoted atheroprotective immune cell responses, as demonstrated by a rise in plasma anti-inflammatory immune cell populations (regulatory T cells, Tregs; regulatory B cells, Bregs and B1a cells) and atheroprotective IgM antibodies. CT-1 deficiency in advanced atherosclerosis mediated regulation of paracrine factors, such as interleukin (IL)-3, IL-6, IL-9, IL-15, IL-27, CXCL5, MCP-3, MIP-1α and MIP-1β. In a model of advanced atherosclerosis, CT-1 deficiency induced anti-inflammatory and atheroprotective effects which resulted in abrogation of atheroprogression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-62596-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7113288PMC
April 2020

Follicular regulatory helper T cells control the response of regulatory B cells to a high-cholesterol diet.

Cardiovasc Res 2021 Feb;117(3):743-755

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Research, Department of Medicine Specialized Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Av. de la Roseraie 64, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland.

Aims: B cell functions in the process of atherogenesis have been investigated but several aspects remain to be clarified.

Methods And Results: In this study, we show that follicular regulatory helper T cells (TFR) control regulatory B cell (BREG) populations in Apoe-/- mice models on a high-cholesterol diet (HCD). Feeding mice with HCD resulted in up-regulation of TFR and BREG cell populations, causing the suppression of proatherogenic follicular helper T cell (TFH) response. TFH cell modulation is correlated with the growth of atherosclerotic plaque size in thoracoabdominal aortas and aortic root plaques, suggesting that TFR cells are atheroprotective. During adoptive transfer experiments, TFR cells transferred into HCD mice decreased TFH cell populations, atherosclerotic plaque size, while BREG cell population and lymphangiogenesis are significantly increased.

Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that, through different strategies, both TFR and TFH cells modulate anti- and pro-atherosclerotic immune processes in an Apoe-/- mice model since TFR cells are able to regulate both TFH and BREG cell populations as well as lymphangiogenesis and lipoprotein metabolism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cvr/cvaa069DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7898950PMC
February 2021

Cardiomyocyte-Specific JunD Overexpression Increases Infarct Size following Ischemia/Reperfusion Cardiac Injury by Downregulating Sirt3.

Thromb Haemost 2020 Jan 13;120(1):168-180. Epub 2019 Dec 13.

Center for Molecular Cardiology, Schlieren Campus, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury in acute myocardial infarction activates several deleterious molecular mechanisms. The transcription factor JunD regulates pathways involved in oxidative stress as well as in cellular proliferation, differentiation, and death. The present study investigated the potential role of JunD as a modulator of myocardial injury pathways in a mouse model of cardiac I/R injury. Infarct size, systemic and local inflammation, and production of reactive oxygen species, as well as cytosolic and mitochondrial apoptotic pathways were investigated in adult males after myocardial I/R. In wild-type (WT) mice, 30 minutes after ischemia and up to 24 hours following reperfusion, cardiac messenger ribonucleic acid expression was reduced while increased. Cardiac-specific JunD overexpressing mice ( ) displayed larger infarcts compared with WT. However, postischemic inflammatory or oxidative responses did not differ. JunD overexpression reduced Sirt3 transcription by binding to its promoter, thus leading to mitochondrial dysfunction, myocardial cell death, and increased infarct size. On the other hand, JunD silencing reduced, while Sirt3 silencing increased infarct size. In human myocardial autopsy specimens, JunD-positive areas within the infarcted left ventricle staining corresponded to undetectable Sirt3 areas in consecutive sections of the same heart. Cardiac-specific JunD overexpression increases myocardial infarct size following I/R. These effects are mediated via Sirt3 transcriptional repression, mitochondrial swelling, and increased apoptosis, suggesting that JunD is a key regulator of myocardial I/R injury. The present data set the stage for further investigation of the potential role of Sirt3 activation as a novel target for the treatment of acute myocardial infarction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/s-0039-3400299DOI Listing
January 2020

Serum PCSK9 levels predict the occurrence of acute coronary syndromes in patients with severe carotid artery stenosis.

Int J Cardiol 2018 07;263:138-141

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, 6 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy; Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, 10 Largo Benzi, 16132 Genoa, Italy; Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Research (CEBR), University of Genoa, 9 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy.

Background: The pharmacological inhibition of Proprotein Convertase Subtilisin/Kexin type 9 (PCSK9) has shown to dramatically impact on low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) levels and associated cardiovascular (CV) diseases. However, the potential use of PCSK9 serum levels as a CV risk biomarker remains to be clarified.

Methods: 189 patients with severe carotid artery atherosclerosis undergoing carotid endarterectomy (CEA) and whose clinical records and serum sample aliquots for PCSK9 level measurement were available both directly before CEA and at 24-month follow-up were included in the present pilot study. The study endpoint was to determine whether PCSK9 serum levels prior to CEA would predict the occurrence of acute coronary syndromes (ACS) at 24-month follow-up.

Results: PCSK9 serum levels were significantly accurate in predicting ACS at 24-month follow-up, as assessed by ROC curve analysis (AUC: 0.719 [95% CI 0.649-0.781]). According to the cut-off point indicated by Youden's index, PCSK9 values >431.3 ng/mL were correlated with a higher risk of ACS occurrence (Log Rank test, p = 0.0003). At Cox regression analysis, the predictive ability of high serum PCSK9 was confirmed also after adjustment for age, gender, baseline statin treatment and active smoking, dyslipidemia, and chronic coronary artery disease (HR 17.04 [95% CI 3.34-86.81]; p = 0.001).

Conclusions: High serum PCSK9 levels predict ACS occurrence at 24-month follow-up after CEA in patients with severe carotid artery stenosis. Larger clinical studies are needed to evaluate whether PCSK9 serum levels could be used towards predicting the risk of ACS in patients with advanced carotid atherosclerosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2018.03.081DOI Listing
July 2018

Apelin-13 treatment enhances the stability of atherosclerotic plaques.

Eur J Clin Invest 2018 Mar 5;48(3). Epub 2018 Feb 5.

Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Background: Apelin is an endogenous peptidergic system which modulates cardiovascular function. Recent studies pointed out a fundamental contribution of apelin on atherosclerosis development; however, such reports revealed contradictory data, and to date, it is difficult to accurately define a beneficial or deleterious role. To better understand apelin function on atherosclerosis, we aimed to investigate apelin-13 treatment effects on atherosclerotic plaques composition.

Design: Apolipoprotein E gene-deleted mice were fed on Western-type diet for 11 weeks. Atherosclerotic plaque formation was induced in the carotid artery by a shear stress modifier device, which exposes the same vessel to distinct patterns of shear stress enabling the formation of plaques with different composition. Mice were treated with apelin-13 (2 mg kg day ) or vehicle for the last 3 weeks.

Results: Apelin-13 treatment did not alter the lipid content of low shear stress- and oscillatory shear stress-induced plaques in the carotid. However, apelin-13 greatly ameliorated plaque stability by increasing intraplaque collagen content and reducing MMP-9 expression. Furthermore, apelin-13 decreased the infiltration of inflammatory cells (neutrophil and macrophage) and intraplaque reactive oxygen species content. Interestingly, apelin-13 treatment reduced total cholesterol, LDL levels and free fatty acid serum levels, while HDL, triglycerides serum levels were not significantly changed.

Conclusions: Apelin-13 treatment for 3 weeks did not alter the lesion size, but it significantly enhanced the stable phenotype of atherosclerotic plaques and improved serum lipid profile. These results indicate that activation of apelin system decreases plaque vulnerability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eci.12891DOI Listing
March 2018

Serum lipoprotein (a) predicts acute coronary syndromes in patients with severe carotid stenosis.

Eur J Clin Invest 2018 Mar 2;48(3). Epub 2018 Feb 2.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy.

Background: Different cut-off values of serum lipoprotein (a) [Lp (a)] were recently identified to better stratify cardiovascular risk categories. Both pathophysiological and prognostic values of Lp (a) remain unclear.

Materials And Methods: Here, the prognostic value of Lp (a) and its correlation with intraplaque features were assessed in patients with severe carotid artery stenosis undergoing endarterectomy (n = 180). The cut-off value of 10 mg/dL for serum Lp (a) was selected to predict 24-month follow-up acute coronary syndrome (ACS). In addition, the association between serum Lp (a) and intraplaque lipids, collagen, inflammatory and vascular cells was assessed. Serum Lp (a) levels were measured by nephelometric assay.

Results: Patients with high Lp (a) had similar comorbidities, medications and laboratory parameters as compared to low Lp (a) levels. At 24-month follow-up, patients with high Lp (a) had more ACS as compared to low levels. Histological parameters within plaques were comparable in the study groups. No significant correlation between Lp (a) serum levels and intraplaque parameters was found, except for a weak positive association with smooth muscle cells in upstream plaque portions. When adjusted for gender, the presence of dyslipidaemia and chronic coronary artery disease, Lp (a) ≥10 mg/dL remained predictive for ACS.

Conclusions: Lp (a) determination could be a useful tool to predict ACS in patients with severe carotid stenosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eci.12888DOI Listing
March 2018

Serum levels of osteopontin predict major adverse cardiovascular events in patients with severe carotid artery stenosis.

Int J Cardiol 2018 Mar 5;255:195-199. Epub 2018 Jan 5.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa School of Medicine, 6 viale Benedetto XV, 13132 Genoa, Italy; Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, 10 Largo Benzi, 16132 Genoa, Italy; Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Research (CEBR), University of Genoa, 9 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy.

Background: Inflammatory mediators in the blood stream and within plaques are key determinants in atherogenesis. Here, we investigated serum osteopontin (OPN) as a potential predictor of poor outcome in patients with severe carotid atherosclerosis.

Methods: Carotid plaques and serum were collected from patients asymptomatic (n=185) or symptomatic (n=40) for ischemic stroke. Plaques were stained for lipids, smooth muscle cells, neutrophils, M1 and M2 macrophage subsets and matrix metallopropteinase-9 (MMP-9). Serum levels of OPN and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were determined by colorimetric enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays.

Results: Symptomatic patients showed a two-fold increase in serum OPN levels. In both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, OPN levels positively correlated with intraplaque count of neutrophils, total macrophages, and MMP-9 content. In asymptomatic patients, OPN levels also positively correlated with lipids and M1 macrophage subsets. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis identified serum OPN concentration of 70ng/ml as the best cut-off value to predict major adverse cardiovascular events (MACEs). Patients with high OPN levels had more vulnerable plaque phenotype and reduced levels of HDL-cholesterol and IL-6 as compared to low OPN levels. Kaplan-Meier curve confirmed that patients with OPN levels >70ng/ml had more MACEs at a 24-month follow-up. In the multivariate survival analysis, OPN levels >70ng/ml predicted MACEs, independently of age, gender, and symptomatic status.

Conclusion: High circulating OPN levels were strongly correlated with vulnerability parameters within plaques and predict MACEs in patients with severe carotid artery stenosis. Although confirmation is needed from larger trials, OPN could be a promising clinical tool to assess atherosclerotic outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2018.01.008DOI Listing
March 2018

Serum adiponectin levels predict acute coronary syndrome (ACS) in patients with severe carotid stenosis.

Vascul Pharmacol 2018 03 2;102:37-43. Epub 2018 Jan 2.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, 6 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy; Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, 10 Largo Benzi, 16132 Genoa, Italy; Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Research (CEBR), University of Genoa, 9 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy.

As endocrine organ, adipose tissue may modulate inflammatory response by releasing a wide range of mediators, known as adipocytokines. Due to the complex balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory activity their pathophysiological and prognostic role in cardiovascular (CV) diseases still remains debated. Here, we consider the potential associations of circulating adipocytokines adiponectin, leptin and their ratio (LAR), with metabolic and inflammatory profiles in 217 patients with severe carotid stenosis. A prospective analysis investigating their predictive role toward acute coronary syndromes (ACS) was also drawn over a 12-month follow-up period. Serum leptin was positively associated with fasting insulinemia and HOMA-IR, but not with lipid profile and inflammation. Conversely, adiponectin was negatively associated with glucose, insulin, HOMA-IR, triglycerides and both systemic and intraplaque inflammatory markers whereas a positive association with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) was observed. Accordingly, a significant association with metabolic profile was reported for LAR. According to the cut-off point identified by ROC curve, adiponectin values≤2.56μg/mL were correlated with a higher risk of ACS occurrence at 12months' follow-up (p-value for Log Rank test=0.0003). At Cox regression analysis the predictive ability of low serum adiponectin was confirmed also after adjustment for age, male gender and diabetes. In conclusion, adiponectin may be considered a biomarker of metabolic compensation, inversely associated with chronic low-grade inflammation. Circulating adiponectin is also associated with lower risk of adverse CV events in patients with severe carotid stenosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vph.2017.12.066DOI Listing
March 2018

Alamandine abrogates neutrophil degranulation in atherosclerotic mice.

Eur J Clin Invest 2017 Feb 4;47(2):117-128. Epub 2017 Jan 4.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa School of Medicine, Genoa, Italy.

Background: Neutrophil-mediated inflammation was recently identified as an active contributor to athero-progression. Therapeutic strategies inhibiting neutrophil degranulation or recruitment were hypothesized to positively impact on plaque vulnerability. In this study, we investigated whether treatment with the recently discovered agonist of the Mas-related G-coupled receptor type D (MrgD) alamandine would impact on neutrophil degranulation in vivo and in vitro.

Materials And Methods: Fifteen-week-old ApoE mice were fed with a Western-type diet for an additional 11 weeks. After the first 2 weeks of diet, mice were surgically implanted with a carotid 'cast' device that alters the blood shear stress and induces different carotid plaque phenotypes. During the last 4 weeks before euthanasia, mice were randomly assigned to subcutaneously receive vehicle (NaCl 0·15 M) or alamandine (24 μg/kg/h) by micropump. For in vitro experiments, neutrophils were obtained after thioglycollate intraperitoneal injection in ApoE mice.

Results: Treatment with alamandine was well-tolerated, but failed to affect lipid, macrophage, neutrophil or collagen content within carotid and aortic root plaques. Also, treatment with alamandine did not affect Th-cell polarization in lymphoid organs. Conversely, alamandine administration was associated with a reduction in serum levels of neutrophil granule enzymes, such as MMP-9 and MPO as well as MMP-9 content within aortic root plaques. In vitro, preincubation with alamandine dose-dependently abrogated PMA-induced neutrophil degranulation of MMP-9 and MPO.

Conclusion: These results suggest that treatment with the MrgD agonist alamandine led to a reduced release of neutrophil granule products, potentially interfering with pro-atherosclerotic neutrophil activation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eci.12708DOI Listing
February 2017

Treatment with the GPR55 antagonist CID16020046 increases neutrophil activation in mouse atherogenesis.

Thromb Haemost 2016 Oct 28;116(5):987-997. Epub 2016 Jul 28.

Prof. Fabrizio Montecucco, MD, PhD, First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, 6 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy, Tel.: +39 010 353 86 94, Fax: +39 010 353 86 86, E-mail:

Endocannabinoids modulate atherogenesis by triggering different receptors. Recently, orphan G protein-coupled receptors (GPRs) were suggested to be activated by endocannabinoids, possibly regulating vasorelaxation. Here, we investigated whether GPR55 antagonism with CID16020046 would impact on atherosclerotic size and inflammation in two mouse models of early and more advanced atherogenesis. Eleven-week old ApoE mice were fed either a normal diet ([ND] for 16 weeks) or a high-cholesterol diet ([HD] for 11 weeks), resulting in different degrees of hypercholesterolaemia and size of atherosclerosis. CID16020046 (0.5 mg/kg) or vehicle were intraperitoneally administrated five times per week in the last three weeks before euthanasia. Treatment with CID1602004 was well-tolerated, but failed to affect atherosclerotic plaque and necrotic core size, fibrous cap thickness, macrophage and smooth muscle cell content as well as Th cell polarisation. In ND mice, treatment with CID1602004 was associated with increased chemokine production, neutrophil and MMP-9 intraplaque content as well as reduced collagen as compared to vehicle-treated animals. In HD mice, CID1602004 increased intraplaque MMP-9 and abrogated collagen content without affecting neutrophils. In vitro, serum from CID1602004-treated ND mice increased mouse neutrophil chemotaxis towards CXCL2 as compared to serum from vehicle-treated animals. CID1602004 dose-dependently induced neutrophil degranulation that was reverted by co-incubation with the GPR55 agonist Abn-CBD. In supernatants from degranulation experiments, increased levels of the endocannabinoid and putative GPR55 ligand anandamide (AEA) were found, suggesting its possible autocrine control of neutrophil activity. These results indicate that GPR55 is critical for the negative control of neutrophil activation in different phases of atherogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1160/TH16-02-0139DOI Listing
October 2016

Intraplaque Expression of C-Reactive Protein Predicts Cardiovascular Events in Patients with Severe Atherosclerotic Carotid Artery Stenosis.

Mediators Inflamm 2016 21;2016:9153673. Epub 2016 Sep 21.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, 6 Viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy.

Serum c-reactive protein (CRP) was suggested for the assessment of intermediate cardiovascular (CV) risk. Here, systemic or intraplaque CRP levels were investigated as predictors of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACEs) in patients with severe carotid stenosis. CRP levels were assessed in the serum and within different portions (upstream and downstream) of carotid plaques of 217 patients undergoing endarterectomy. The association between CRP and intraplaque lipids, collagen, neutrophils, smooth muscle cells (SMC), and macrophage subsets was determined. No correlation between serum CRP and intraplaque biomarkers was observed. In upstream portions, CRP content was directly correlated with intraplaque neutrophils, total macrophages, and M1 macrophages and inversely correlated with SMC content. In downstream portions, intraplaque CRP correlated with M1 and M2 macrophages. According to the cut-off point (CRP > 2.9%) identified by ROC analysis in upstream portions, Kaplan-Meier analysis showed that patients with high CRP levels had a greater rate of MACEs. This risk of MACEs increased independently of age, male gender, serum CRP, and statin use. In conclusion, in patients with severe carotid artery stenosis, high CRP levels within upstream portions of carotid plaques directly and positively correlate with intraplaque inflammatory cells and predict MACEs at an 18-month follow-up period.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/9153673DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5050375PMC
May 2017

Vitamin D receptor is expressed within human carotid plaques and correlates with pro-inflammatory M1 macrophages.

Vascul Pharmacol 2016 10 20;85:57-65. Epub 2016 Aug 20.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, 6 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy; IRCCS AOU San Martino - IST, Largo Benzi 10, 16100 Genoa, Italy.

The role of Vitamin D system in cardiovascular diseases remains controversial. Here, we investigated whether intraplaque levels of vitamin D receptor (VDR) predicted major adverse cardiovascular events (MACEs) at 18month-follow-up and correlated with macrophage subsets in 164 patients undergoing endarterectomy for carotid stenosis. In human carotid plaque portions upstream and downstream the blood flow, VDR, lipid, collagen, as well as macrophage subsets were determined. Human primary monocytes were then differentiated in vitro to M1 and M2 macrophages and treated with 1,25(OH)2D3. Intraplaque VDR positively correlated with total and M1 macrophages. According to the result of ROC curve analysis, downstream portions of plaques having high VDR expression were characterized by increased M1 macrophages. Kaplan-Meier analysis showed that the risk of MACEs was greater in patients having low downstream VDR levels (8.2% vs. 1.3%; p=0.005). Cox proportional hazard regression analyses confirmed that MACE risk decreased with increasing downstream VDR (adjusted HR 0.78 [95% CI 0.62-0.98]; p=0.032). In vitro, VDR expression was prevalent in M1, but not M2. Incubation of M1 macrophages with 1,25(OH)2D3, increased VDR expression and suppressed toll-like receptor 4 expression. These results suggest that low intraplaque VDR expression predict MACEs in patients with carotid stenosis potentially involving M1 macrophages.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vph.2016.08.004DOI Listing
October 2016

Anti-ApoA-1 IgG serum levels predict worse poststroke outcomes.

Eur J Clin Invest 2016 Sep;46(9):805-17

Division of Laboratory Medicine, Department of Genetics and Laboratory Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.

Background: Autoantibodies to apolipoprotein A-1 (anti-ApoA-1 IgG) were shown to predict major adverse cardiovascular events and promote atherogenesis. However, their potential relationship with clinical disability and ischaemic lesion volume after acute ischaemic stroke (AIS) remains unexplored.

Materials And Methods: We included n = 76 patients admitted for AIS and we investigated whether baseline serum anti-ApoA-1 IgG levels could predict (i) AIS-induced clinical disability [assessed by the modified Rankin Scale (mRS)], and (ii) AIS-related ischaemic lesion volume [assessed by Computed Tomography (CT)]. We also evaluated the possible pro-apoptotic and pro-necrotic effects of anti-ApoA-1 IgG on human astrocytoma cell line (U251) using flow cytometry.

Results: High levels of anti-ApoA-1 IgG were retrieved in 15·8% (12/76) of patients. Increased baseline levels of anti-ApoA-1 IgG were independently correlated with worse mRS [β = 0·364; P = 0·002; adjusted odds ratio (OR): 1·05 (95% CI 1·01-1·09); P = 0·017] and CT-assessed ischaemic lesion volume [β = 0·333; P < 0·001; adjusted OR: 1·06 (95% CI 1·01-1·12); P = 0·048] at 3 months. No difference in baseline clinical, biochemical and radiological characteristics was observed between patients with high vs. low levels of anti-ApoA-1 IgG. Incubating human astrocytoma cells with anti-ApoA-1 IgG dose dependently induced necrosis and apoptosis of U251 cells in vitro.

Conclusion: Anti-ApoA-1 IgG serum levels at AIS onset are associated with poorer clinical recovery and worse brain lesion volume 3 months after AIS. These observations could be partly explained by the deleterious effect of anti-ApoA-1 IgG on human brain cell survival in vitro and may have clinical implication in the prediction of poor outcome in AIS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eci.12664DOI Listing
September 2016

Anti-apolipoprotein A-1 auto-antibodies as active modulators of atherothrombosis.

Thromb Haemost 2016 08 30;116(3):554-64. Epub 2016 Jun 30.

Sabrina Pagano, PhD, Division of Laboratory Medicine, Department of Genetics and Laboratory Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, 4 rue Gabrielle Perret-Gentil, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland, Tel.: +41 22 37 95 321, Fax: +41 22 3795502, E-mail:

Humoral autoimmune-mediated inflammation plays a role in atherogenesis, and potentially in arterial thrombosis. Anti-apolipoprotein A-1 (apoA-1) IgG have been reported to represent emergent mediators of atherogenesis through Toll-like receptors (TLR) 2, 4 and CD14 signalling. We investigated the role of anti-apoA-1 IgG on tissue factor (TF) expression and activation, a key coagulation regulator underlying atherothrombosis. Atherothrombosis features were determined by immunohistochemical TF staining of human carotid biopsies derived from patients with severe carotid stenosis undergoing elective surgery (n=176), and on aortic roots of different genetic backgrounds mice (ApoE-/-; TLR2-/-ApoE-/- and TLR4-/-ApoE-/-) exposed to passive immunisation with anti-apoA-1 IgG. Human serum levels of anti-apoA-1 IgG were measured by ELISA. In vitro, on human-monocyte-derived-macrophages (HMDM) the anti-apoA-1 IgG increased TF expression and activity were analysed by FACS and chromogenic assays in presence of different pharmacological inhibitors. Human serum anti-apoA-1 IgG levels significantly correlated to intraplaque TF expression in carotid biopsies (r=0.31, p<0.001), which was predictive of clinically symptomatic lesions. On HMDM, anti-apoA-1 IgG induced a TLR2, 4 and CD14-dependent increase in TF expression and activity, involving NF-kappaB and a c-Jun N-terminal kinase-dependent AP-1 transcription factors. In ApoE-/- mice, anti-apoA-1 IgG passive immunisation significantly enhanced intraplaque TF expression when compared to control IgG. This effect was lost in both TLR2-/-ApoE-/- and TLR4-/-ApoE-/- mice. These results demonstrate that anti-apoA-1 IgG are associated with TF expression in human atherosclerotic plaques, induce TF expression in vitro and in vivo through TLR2 and 4 signalling, supporting a possible causal relationship between anti-apoA-1 IgG and atherothrombosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1160/TH16-03-0229DOI Listing
August 2016

Treatment with anti-RANKL antibody reduces infarct size and attenuates dysfunction impacting on neutrophil-mediated injury.

J Mol Cell Cardiol 2016 05 5;94:82-94. Epub 2016 Apr 5.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa School of Medicine and IRCCS Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria San Martino-IST Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, 6 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy. Electronic address:

Selective pharmacological treatments targeting reperfusion injury produced modest protective effects and might be associated with immunosuppression. In order to identify novel and better-tolerated approaches, we focused on the neutralization of receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B ligand [RANKL], a cytokine recently shown to activate inflammatory cells (i.e. neutrophils) orchestrating post-infarction injury and repair. Myocardial ischemia (60min) and reperfusion injury was surgically induced in C57Bl/6 mice. In hearts and serum, RANKL was early upregulated during reperfusion. A "one-shot" injection with neutralizing anti-RANKL IgG during ischemia ameliorated myocardial infarct size and function, but not adverse remodeling (determined by Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI]) as compared to Vehicle or control IgG. These beneficial effects were accompanied in vivo by reduction in cardiac neutrophil infiltration, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and MMP-9 release. Anti-RANKL IgG treatment suppressed sudden peak of neutrophil granule products in mouse serum early after reperfusion onset. In vitro, RANK mRNA expression was detected in isolated mouse neutrophils. Co-incubation with neutralizing anti-RANKL IgG abrogated RANKL-induced mouse neutrophil degranulation and migration, suggesting a critical role of RANKL in neutrophil-mediated injury. Conversely, anti-RANKL IgG did not affect salvage pathways in cardiac cells (i.e. ERK p42/p44, Akt and STAT-3) or macrophage cardiac infiltration. Finally, treatment with anti-RANKL IgG showed no effect on B and T lymphocyte polarization (in serum, spleen and infarcted myocardium) and circulating chemokines as compared with Vehicle or control IgG. In conclusion, acute treatment with anti-RANKL IgG improved cardiac infarct size and function by potentially impacting on neutrophil-mediated injury and repair.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yjmcc.2016.03.013DOI Listing
May 2016

Leptin/adiponectin ratio predicts poststroke neurological outcome.

Eur J Clin Invest 2015 Nov 19;45(11):1184-91. Epub 2015 Oct 19.

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, Department of Medical Specialties, Geneva University, Geneva, Switzerland.

Background And Aims: Different adipokines have been associated with atherosclerotic plaque rupture and cardiovascular events, such as acute ischaemic stroke (AIS). However, the potential role of these molecules in postischaemic brain injury remains largely unknown.

Methods And Methods: We performed a substudy analysis on nonobese patients with first atherothrombotic stroke (n = 35) from a recently published prospective cohort. Primary endpoint was to investigate the predictive value of serum leptin/adiponectin ratio on neurological recovery at 90 days after AIS. The secondary endpoint was the predictive value of serum adipokine levels of clinical and radiological outcomes at a shorter follow-up (at days 1 and 7 after AIS). The radiological evaluation included ischaemic lesion volume and haemorrhagic transformation (HT). The clinical examination was based on National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) and modified Rankin Scale (mRS).

Results: At day 1 after AIS, serum leptin and leptin/adiponectin ratio were increased and inversely correlated with both radiological and clinical parameters at all follow-up time points. Once identified the best cut-off points by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis, risk analysis showed that higher circulating leptin improved neurological recovery at day 90. In addition, leptin/adiponectin ratio maintained statistical significance after adjustment for age, gender and thrombolysis, also predicting the occurrence of HT in the first 7 days after AIS (adjusted OR 0·15 [95% CI 0·03-0·83); P = 0·030]).

Conclusions: Higher leptin/adiponectin ratio at day 1 predicted better neurological outcomes in patients with atherothrombotic AIS and might be potentially useful as a prognostic biomarker of the disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eci.12538DOI Listing
November 2015

Treatment with KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB reduces mouse atherogenesis by impacting on lipid profile and Th1 lymphocyte response.

Vascul Pharmacol 2015 Sep 25;72:197-208. Epub 2015 Apr 25.

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, Department of Medical Specialties, University of Geneva, 64 avenue de la Roseraie, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.

The ability of pharmacological agents to target both "classical" risk factors and inflammation may be key for successful outcomes in the prevention and treatment of atherogenesis. Among the promising drugs interfering with cholesterol metabolism, we investigated whether methyl beta-cyclodextrin (KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB) could positively impact on atherogenesis, lipid profile and atherosclerotic plaque inflammation in ApoE-/- mice. Eleven-week old ApoE-/- mice were fed either a normal diet (N.D.) or a high-cholesterol diet (H.D.), resulting in different levels of hypercholesterolemia. KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB (40mg/kg) or vehicle was intraperitoneally administrated 3 times per week in the last 16weeks before euthanasia in mice under N.D. and in the last 11weeks under H.D. Treatment with KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB reduced triglyceride serum levels in both atherogenesis mouse models. In H.D. mice, treatment with KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB increased HDL-cholesterol levels and reduced free fatty acids and spleen weight. In both mouse models, treatment with KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB reduced atherosclerotic plaque size in thoraco-abdominal aortas and intraplaque T lymphocyte content, but did not induce relevant improvements in other histological parameters of vulnerability (macrophage, neutrophil, MMP-9 and collagen content). Conversely and more markedly in H.D. mice, treatment with KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB was associated with a reduction in genetic markers of Th1-mediated immune response. In vitro, KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB dose-dependently abrogated Th1 proliferation and IFNγ release. In conclusion, treatment with KLEPTOSE® CRYSMEB reduced atherosclerotic plaque size by improving triglyceride serum levels and Th1-mediated response. These results indicate this drug as a potential tool for blocking atheroprogression associated with different severity degrees of hypercholesterolemia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vph.2015.04.008DOI Listing
September 2015

Treatment with sulphated galactan inhibits macrophage chemotaxis and reduces intraplaque macrophage content in atherosclerotic mice.

Vascul Pharmacol 2015 Aug 10;71:84-92. Epub 2015 Apr 10.

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, University of Geneva, 64, avenue de la Roseraie, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland; First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa School of Medicine, IRCCS Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria San Martino-IST Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy; Division of Laboratory Medicine, Department of Genetics and Laboratory Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, n4, Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Experimental data from animal models and clinical studies support connections between the haemostasis and inflammation in atherogenesis. These interfaces among inflammation and thrombogenesis have been suggested as targets for pharmacological intervention to reduce disease progression. We hypothesize that the recently discovered antithrombotic drug Sulphated Galactan (SG) (isolated from the red marine alga Acanthophora muscoides) might reduce atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability and inflammatory gene expression in 10-week aged apolipoprotein E deficient (ApoE-/-) mice under high-cholesterol diet for additional 11weeks. Then, the underlying cellular mechanisms were investigated in vitro. SG (10mg/kg) or Vehicle was subcutaneously injected from week 6 until week 11 of the diet. Treatment with SG reduced intraplaque macrophage and Tissue Factor (TF) content as compared to Vehicle-treated animals. Intraplaque TF co-localized and positively correlated with macrophage rich-areas. No changes on atherosclerotic plaque size, and other intraplaque features of vulnerability (such as lipid, neutrophil, MMP-9 and collagen contents) were observed. Moreover, mRNA expression of MMPs, chemokines and genetic markers of Th1/2/reg/17 lymphocyte polarization within mouse aortic arches and spleens was not affected by SG treatment. In vitro, treatment with SG dose-dependently reduced macrophage chemotaxis without affecting TF production. Overall, the chronic SG treatment was well tolerated. In conclusion, our results indicate that SG treatment reduced intraplaque macrophage content (by impacting on cell recruitment) and, concomitantly, intraplaque TF content of potential macrophage origin in atherosclerotic mice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vph.2015.02.015DOI Listing
August 2015

Serum osteopontin levels are upregulated and predict disability after an ischaemic stroke.

Eur J Clin Invest 2015 Jun 24;45(6):579-86. Epub 2015 Apr 24.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa School of Medicine, IRCCS Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria San Martino-IST Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genoa, Italy.

Background: After an acute ischaemic stroke (AIS), several inflammatory biomarkers have been investigated, but their predictive role on functional recovery remains to be validated. Here, we investigated the prognostic relevance of biomarkers related to atherosclerotic plaque calcification, such as osteopontin (OPN), osteoprotegerin (OPG) and the receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B ligand (RANKL) in a cohort of patients with AIS (n = 90) during 90-day follow-up.

Materials And Methods: Radiological and clinical examinations as well as blood sampling were performed at admission and at days 1, 7 and 90 from the event. Validated scores [such as modified Rankin scale (mRS) and the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS)] were used to assess poststroke outcome. Serum levels of OPN, OPG and RANKL were measured by colorimetric enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

Results: When compared to the admission, OPN serum levels increased at day 7. Serum OPN levels at this time point were positively correlated with both ischaemic lesion volume and NIHSS at days 7 and 90. A cut-off of 30.53 ng/mL was identified for serum OPN by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis. Adjusted logistic regression showed that serum OPN levels at day 7 predicted worse mRS at day 90 [OR 4.13 (95% CI 1.64-10.36); P = 0.002] and NIHSS [1.49 (95% CI 1.16-1.99); P = 0.007], independently of age, gender, hypertension and thrombolysis.

Conclusions: Serum levels of OPN, but not OPG and RANKL, peaked at day 7 after AIS and predicted worse neurological scores. Therefore, OPN might have a pathophysiological and clinical relevance after AIS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eci.12446DOI Listing
June 2015

Treatment with recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (r-TPA) induces neutrophil degranulation in vitro via defined pathways.

Vascul Pharmacol 2015 Jan 18;64:16-27. Epub 2014 Dec 18.

First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa School of Medicine. IRCCS Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria San Martino-IST Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, 6 viale Benedetto XV, 16132 Genoa, Italy; Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, Department of Medical Specialties, University of Geneva, 64 avenue de la Roseraie, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland; Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, Department of Medical Specialties, University of Geneva, 64 avenue de la Roseraie, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Thrombolysis is recommended for reperfusion following acute ischemic stroke (AIS), but its effects on stroke-associated injury remain to be clarified. Here, we investigated the effects of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (r-tPA) on neutrophil pathophysiology in vitro and in a case-control study with AIS patients submitted (n=60) or not (n=30) to thrombolysis. Patients underwent radiological and clinical examination as well as blood sampling at admission and after 1, 7 and 90days. In vitro, 30-min incubation with 0.1-1 mg/ml r-tPA induced neutrophil degranulation in different substrate cultures. Pre-incubation with kinase inhibitors and Western blot documented that degranulation was associated with activation of PI3K/Akt and ERK1/2 pathways in Teflon dishes and PI3K/Akt in polystyrene. In thrombolysed patients, a peak of neutrophil degranulation products (matrix metalloproteinase [MMP]-9, MMP-8, neutrophil elastase and myeloperoxidase), was shown during the first hours from drug administration. This was accompanied by serum augmentation of protective tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1 and TIMP-2. An increased rate of haemorrhagic transformations on day 1 after AIS was shown in thrombolysed patients as compared to non-thrombolysed controls. In conclusion, r-tPA treatment was associated with in vitro neutrophil degranulation, indicating these cells as potential determinants in early haemorrhagic complications after thrombolysis in AIS patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vph.2014.11.007DOI Listing
January 2015

Gastric bypass in morbid obese patients is associated with reduction in adipose tissue inflammation via N-oleoylethanolamide (OEA)-mediated pathways.

Thromb Haemost 2015 Apr 20;113(4):838-50. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Dr. Fabrizio Montecucco, MD, PhD, Division of Laboratory Medicine, Department of Genetics and Laboratory Medicine, Geneva University Hospital, 64 Avenue Roseraie, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland, Tel: +41 22 382 72 38, Fax: +41 22 382 72 45, E-mail:

Paradoxically, morbid obesity was suggested to protect from cardiovascular co-morbidities as compared to overweight/obese patients. We hypothesise that this paradox could be inferred to modulation of the "endocannabinoid" system on systemic and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) inflammation. We designed a translational project including clinical and in vitro studies at Geneva University Hospital. Morbid obese subjects (n=11) were submitted to gastric bypass surgery (GBS) and followed up for one year (post-GBS). Insulin resistance and circulating and SAT levels of endocannabinoids, adipocytokines and CC chemokines were assessed pre- and post-GBS and compared to a control group of normal and overweight subjects (CTL) (n=20). In vitro cultures with 3T3-L1 adipocytes were used to validate findings from clinical results. Morbid obese subjects had baseline lower insulin sensitivity and higher hs-CRP, leptin, CCL5 and anandamide (AEA) levels as compared to CTL. GBS induced a massive weight and fat mass loss, improved insulin sensitivity and lipid profile, decreased C-reactive protein, leptin, and CCL2 levels. In SAT, increased expression of resistin, CCL2, CCL5 and tumour necrosis factor and reduced MGLL were shown in morbid obese patients pre-GBS when compared to CTL. GBS increased all endocannabinoids and reduced adipocytokines and CC chemokines. In morbid obese SAT, inverse correlations independent of body mass index were shown between palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) and N-oleoylethanolamide (OEA) levels and inflammatory molecules. In vitro, OEA inhibited CCL2 secretion from adipocytes via ERK1/2 activation. In conclusion, GBS was associated with relevant clinical, metabolic and inflammatory improvements, increasing endocannabinoid levels in SAT. OEA directly reduced CCL2 secretion via ERK1/2 activation in adipocytes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1160/TH14-06-0506DOI Listing
April 2015

Genetic deletion of the adaptor protein p66Shc increases susceptibility to short-term ischaemic myocardial injury via intracellular salvage pathways.

Eur Heart J 2015 Feb 21;36(8):516-26a. Epub 2014 Oct 21.

Center for Molecular Cardiology, Schlieren Campus, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland Department of Cardiology, University Heart Center, Center for Molecular Cardiology, University Hospital and University of Zurich, Rämistrasse 100, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland Zurich Center of Integrative Human Physiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Aims: Several intracellular mediators have been implicated as new therapeutic targets against myocardial ischaemia and reperfusion injury. However, clinically effective salvage pathways remain undiscovered. Here, we focused on the potential role of the adaptor protein p66(Shc) as a regulator of myocardial injury in a mouse model of cardiac ischaemia and reperfusion.

Methods And Results: Adult male p66(Shc) deficient (p66(Shc) (-/-)) and C57Bl/6 wild-type (WT) mice were exposed to 30, 45, or 60 min of ischaemia and reperfusion (5, 15 min, or 24 h). Infarct size, systemic and intracardiac inflammation and oxidants, as well as cytosolic and mitochondrial apoptotic pathways were investigated. Following 30, but not 45 or 60 min of ischaemia, genetic p66(Shc) deficiency was associated with larger infarcts. In WT mice, in vivo p66(Shc) knock down by siRNA with transient protein deficiency confirmed these findings. P66(Shc) inhibition was not associated with any modification in post-infarction inflammation, oxidative burst nor cardiac vessel density or structure. However, in p66(Shc) (-/-) mice activation of the protective and anti-apoptotic Reperfusion Injury Salvage Kinases and Survivor Activating Factor Enhancement pathways were blunted and mitochondrial swelling and cellular apoptosis via the caspase-3 pathway increased compared with WT.

Conclusions: Genetic deletion of p66(Shc) increased susceptibility to myocardial injury in response to short-term ischaemia and reperfusion in mice. Still, additional studies are needed for assessing the role of this pathway in acute coronary syndrome patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehu400DOI Listing
February 2015

Treatment with Evasin-3 abrogates neutrophil-mediated inflammation in mouse acute pancreatitis.

Eur J Clin Invest 2014 Oct;44(10):940-50

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa School of Medicine, IRCCS Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria San Martino-IST Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genoa, Italy; Division of Laboratory Medicine, Department of Genetics and Laboratory Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.

Background: Acute pancreatitis is characterized by inflammatory processes affecting not only the pancreas, but also the lung. Here, we investigated timing of leucocyte infiltration and chemokine expression within lung and pancreas during pancreatitis and whether treatments selectively inhibiting chemokines (using Evasins) could improve organ injury.

Material And Methods: C57Bl/6 mice were submitted in vivo to 10-h intraperitoneal injections of cerulein and followed for up to 168 h. Five minutes after the first cerulein injection, a single intraperitoneal injection of 10 μg Evasin-3, 1 μg Evasin-4 or an equal volume of vehicle (PBS) was performed. Leucocytes, reactive oxygen species (ROS), necrosis and chemokine/cytokine mRNA expression were assessed in different organs by immunohistology and real-time RT-PCR, respectively.

Results: In the lung, neutrophil infiltration and macrophage infiltration peaked at 12 h and were accompanied by increased CXCL2 mRNA expression. CCL2, CXCL1 and TNF-alpha significantly increased after 24 h as compared to baseline. No increase in CCL3 and CCL5 was observed. In the pancreas, neutrophil infiltration peaked at 6 h, while macrophages increased only after 72 h. Treatment with Evasin-3 decreased neutrophil infiltration, ROS production and apoptosis in the lung and reduced neutrophils, macrophages apoptosis and necrosis in the pancreas. Evasin-4 only reduced macrophage content in the lung and did not provide any benefit at the pancreas level.

Conclusion: Chemokine production and leucocyte infiltration are timely regulated in lung and pancreas during pancreatitis. CXC chemokine inhibition with Evasin-3 improved neutrophil inflammation and injury, potentially interfering with damages in acute pancreatitis and related pulmonary complications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eci.12327DOI Listing
October 2014

Nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase inhibition reduces intraplaque CXCL1 production and associated neutrophil infiltration in atherosclerotic mice.

Thromb Haemost 2014 Feb 7;111(2):308-22. Epub 2013 Nov 7.

Dr. Fabrizio Montecucco, MD, PhD, Cardiology Division, Foundation for Medical Researches, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Geneva, 64 Avenue Roseraie, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland, Tel.: +41 22 382 72 38, Fax: +41 22 382 72 45, E-mail:

Pharmacological treatments targeting CXC chemokines and the associated neutrophil activation and recruitment into atherosclerotic plaques hold promise for treating cardiovascular disorders. Therefore, we investigated whether FK866, a nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) inhibitor with anti-inflammatory properties that we recently found to reduce neutrophil recruitment into the ischaemic myocardium, would exert beneficial effects in a mouse atherosclerosis model. Atherosclerotic plaque formation was induced by carotid cast implantation in ApoE-/- mice that were fed with a Western-type diet. FK866 or vehicle were administrated intraperitoneally from week 8 until week 11 of the diet. Treatment with FK866 reduced neutrophil infiltration and MMP-9 content and increased collagen levels in atherosclerotic plaques compared to vehicle. No effect on other histological parameters, including intraplaque lipids or macrophages, was observed. These findings were associated with a reduction in both systemic and intraplaque CXCL1 levels in FK866-treated mice. In vitro, FK866 did not affect MMP-9 release by neutrophils, but it strongly reduced CXCL1 production by endothelial cells which, in the in vivo model, were identified as a main CXCL1 source at the plaque level. CXCL1 synthesis inhibition by FK866 appears to reflect interference with nuclear factor-κB signalling as shown by reduced p65 nuclear levels in endothelial cells pre-treated with FK866. In conclusion, pharmacological inhibition of NAMPT activity mitigates inflammation in atherosclerotic plaques by reducing CXCL1-mediated activities on neutrophils. These results support further assessments of NAMPT inhibitors for the potential prevention of plaque vulnerability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1160/TH13-07-0531DOI Listing
February 2014

Role of NADPH oxidase isoforms NOX1, NOX2 and NOX4 in myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury.

J Mol Cell Cardiol 2013 Nov 16;64:99-107. Epub 2013 Sep 16.

Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, University Hospital, Foundation for Medical Researches, 64 Avenue Roseraie, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland; Division of Clinical Pathology, Department of Genetic Medicine and Laboratories, University Hospital, 1 rue Michel-Servet, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Myocardial reperfusion injury is mediated by several processes including increase of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The aim of the study is to identify potential sources of ROS contributing to myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury. For this purpose, we investigated myocardial ischemia/reperfusion pathology in mice deficient in various NADPH oxidase isoforms (Nox1, Nox2, Nox4, as well as Nox1/2 double knockout). Following 30min of ischemia and 24h of reperfusion, a significant decrease in the size of myocardial infarct was observed in Nox1-, Nox2- and Nox1/Nox2-, but not in Nox4-deficient mice. However, no protection was observed in a model of chronic ischemia, suggesting that NOX1 and NOX2-mediated oxidative damage occurs during reperfusion. Cardioprotective effect of Nox1 and Nox2 deficiencies was associated with decrease of neutrophil invasion, but, on the other hand an improved reperfusion injury was also observed in isolated perfused hearts (Langendorff model) suggesting that inflammatory cells were not the major source of oxidative damage. A decrease in global post-reperfusion oxidative stress was clearly detected in Nox2-, but not in Nox1-deficient hearts. Analysis of key signaling pathways during reperfusion suggests distinct cardioprotective patterns: increased phosphorylation was seen for Akt and Erk in Nox1-deficient mice and for Stat3 and Erk in Nox2-deficient mice. Consequently, NOX1 and NOX2 represent interesting drug targets for controlling reperfusion damage associated with revascularization in coronary disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yjmcc.2013.09.007DOI Listing
November 2013

Treatment with the CC chemokine-binding protein Evasin-4 improves post-infarction myocardial injury and survival in mice.

Thromb Haemost 2013 Oct 8;110(4):807-25. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

Fabrizio Montecucco, MD, PhD, Cardiology Division, Department of Medicine, Geneva University Hospital, Foundation for Medical Researches, 64 Avenue Roseraie, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland, Tel.: +41 223827238, Fax: +41 223827245, E-mail:

Chemokines trigger leukocyte trafficking and are implicated in cardiovascular disease pathophysiology. Chemokine-binding proteins, called "Evasins" have been shown to inhibit both CC and CXC chemokine-mediated bioactivities. Here, we investigated whether treatment with Evasin-3 (CXC chemokine inhibitor) and Evasin-4 (CC chemokine inhibitor) could influence post-infarction myocardial injury and remodelling. C57Bl/6 mice were submitted in vivo to left coronary artery permanent ligature and followed up for different times (up to 21 days). After coronary occlusion, three intraperitoneal injections of 10 μg Evasin-3, 1 μg Evasin-4 or equal volume of vehicle (PBS) were performed at 5 minutes, 24 hours (h) and 48 h after ischaemia onset. Both anti-chemokine treatments were associated with the beneficial reduction in infarct size as compared to controls. This effect was accompanied by a decrease in post-infarction myocardial leukocyte infiltration, reactive oxygen species release, and circulating levels of CXCL1 and CCL2. Treatment with Evasin-4 induced a more potent effect, abrogating the inflammation already at one day after ischaemia onset. At days 1 and 21 after ischaemia onset, both anti-chemokine treatments failed to significantly improve cardiac function, remodelling and scar formation. At 21-day follow-up, mouse survival was exclusively improved by Evasin-4 treatment when compared to control vehicle. In conclusion, we showed that the selective inhibition of CC chemokines (i.e. CCL5) with Evasin-4 reduced cardiac injury/inflammation and improved survival. Despite the inhibition of CXC chemokine bioactivities, Evasin-3 did not affect mouse survival. Therefore, early inhibition of CC chemokines might represent a promising therapeutic approach to reduce the development of post-infarction heart failure in mice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1160/TH13-04-0297DOI Listing
October 2013