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Nikita G Nikiforov, Anastasia Ryabova, Marina V Kubekina, Igor D Romanishkin, Kirill A Trofimov, Yegor S Chegodaev, Ekaterina Ivanova, Alexander N Orekhov

Biomedicines. 2021 Feb 4;9(2):153. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9020153.


Atherosclerosis is associated with a chronic local inflammatory process in the arterial wall. Our previous studies have demonstrated the altered proinflammatory activity of circulating monocytes in patients with atherosclerosis. Moreover, atherosclerosis progression and monocyte proinflammatory activity were associated with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations in circulating monocytes. The role of mitochondria in the immune system cells is currently well recognized. They can act as immunomodulators by releasing molecules associated with bacterial infection. We hypothesized that atherosclerosis can be associated with changes in the mitochondrial function of circulating monocytes. To test this hypothesis, we performed live staining of the mitochondria of CD14+ monocytes from healthy donors and atherosclerosis patients with MitoTracker Orange CMTMRos dye, which is sensitive to mitochondrial membrane potential. The intensity of such staining reflects mitochondrial functional activity. We found that parts of monocytes in the primary culture were characterized by low MitoTracker staining (MitoTracker-low monocytes). Such cells were morphologically similar to cells with normal staining and able to metabolize 5-aminolevulinic acid and accumulate the heme precursor protoporphyrin IX (PplX), indicative of partially preserved mitochondrial function. We assessed the proportion of MitoTracker-low monocytes in the primary culture for each study subject and compared the results with other parameters, such as monocyte ability to lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced proinflammatory activation and the intima-media thickness of carotid arteries. We found that the proportion of MitoTracker-low monocytes was associated with the presence of atherosclerotic plaques. An increased number of such monocytes in the primary culture was associated with a reduced proinflammatory activation ability of cells. The obtained results indicate the presence of circulating monocytes with mitochondrial dysfunction and the association of such cells with chronic inflammation and atherosclerosis development.


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