Activation of aryl hydrocarbon receptor induces vascular inflammation and promotes atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-/- mice

Dalei Wu, Noriko Nishimura, Victoria Kuo, Oliver Fiehn, Sevini Shahbaz, Laura Van Winkle, Fumio Matsumura, Christoph Adam Vogel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Objective- Exposure to dioxins has been shown to contribute to the development of inflammatory diseases, such as atherosclerosis. Macrophage-mediated inflammation is a critical event in the initiation of atherosclerosis. Previously, we showed that treatment of macrophages with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) leads to aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-dependent activation of inflammatory mediators and the formation of cholesterol-laden foam cells. However, the mechanisms responsible for the formation of atherosclerotic lesions mediated through AhR have not been identified. Methods and Results- An in vitro macrophage and an apolipoprotein E (ApoE)-/- mouse model were used to determine whether chemokines and their receptors are responsible for the AhR-mediated atherogenesis. Exposure of ApoE-/- mice to TCDD caused a time-dependent progression of atherosclerosis, which was associated with induction of inflammatory genes, including interleukin-8, as well as F4/80 and matrix metalloproteinase-12. A high-fat diet enhanced the TCDD-mediated inflammatory response and aggravated the formation of complex atheromas. Treatment with a CXCR2 inhibitor and an AhR antagonist reduced the TCDD-induced progression of early atherosclerotic lesions in ApoE-/- mice. Conclusion- The results suggest that CXCR2 mediates the atherogenic activity of environmental pollutants, such as dioxins, and contributes to the development of atherosclerosis through the induction of a vascular inflammatory response by activating the AhR-signaling pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1260-1267
Number of pages8
JournalArteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • AhR
  • atherosclerosis
  • macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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