Recruitment of foamy monocytes to inflamed endothelium expressing VCAM-1 contributes to the development of plaque during atherogenesis. Foamy CD11c+ monocytes arise in the circulation during the onset of hypercholesterolemia and recruit to nascent plaque, but the mechanism of CD11c/CD18 and very late Ag-4 (VLA-4) activation and cooperation in shear-resistant cell arrest on VCAM-1 are ill defined. Within 1 wk of the onset of a Western high-fat diet (WD) in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice, an inflammatory subset of foamy monocytes emerged that made up one fourth of the circulating population. These cells expressed 3-fold more CD11c/CD18 and 50% higher chemokine receptors than nonfoamy monocytes. Recruitment from blood to a VCAM-1 substrate under shear stress was assessed ex vivo using a unique artery-on-a-chip microfluidic assay. It revealed that foamy monocytes from mice on a WD increased their adhesiveness over 5 wk, rising to twice that of mice on a normal diet or CD11c-/- mice fed a WD. Shear-resistant capture of foamy human or mouse monocytes was initiated by high-affinity CD11c, which directly activated VLA-4 adhesion via phosphorylated spleen tyrosine kinase and paxillin within focal adhesion complexes. Lipid uptake and activation of CD11c are early and critical events in signaling VLA-4 adhesive function on foamy monocytes competent to recruit to VCAM-1 on inflamed arterial endothelium.
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