Aims The E3-ligase CBL-B (Casitas B-cell lymphoma-B) is an important negative regulator of T cell activation that is also expressed in macrophages. T cells and macrophages mediate atherosclerosis, but their regulation in this disease remains largely unknown; thus, we studied the function of CBL-B in atherogenesis.
Methods and results The expression of CBL-B in human atherosclerotic plaques was lower in advanced lesions compared with initial lesions and correlated inversely with necrotic core area. Twenty weeks old Cblb(-/-) Apoe(-/-) mice showed a significant increase in plaque area in the aortic arch, where initial plaques were present. In the aortic root, a site containing advanced plaques, lesion area rose by 40%, accompanied by a dramatic change in plaque phenotype. Plaques contained fewer macrophages due to increased apoptosis, larger necrotic cores, and more CD8(+) T cells. Cblb(-/-) Apoe(-/-) macrophages exhibited enhanced migration and increased cytokine production and lipid uptake. Casitas B-cell lymphoma-B deficiency increased CD8(+) T cell numbers, which were protected against apoptosis and regulatory T cell-mediated suppression. IFN gamma and granzyme B production was enhanced in Cblb(-/-) Apoe(-/-) CD8(+) T cells, which provoked macrophage killing. Depletion of CD8(+) T cells in Cblb(-/-) Apoe(-/-) bone marrow chimeras rescued the phenotype, indicating that CBL-B controls atherosclerosis mainly through its function in CD8(+) T cells.
Conclusion Casitas B-cell lymphoma-B expression in human plaques decreases during the progression of atherosclerosis. As an important regulator of immune responses in experimental atherosclerosis, CBL-B hampers macrophage recruitment and activation during initial atherosclerosis and limits CD8(+) T cell activation and CD8(+) T cell-mediated macrophage death in advanced atherosclerosis, thereby preventing the progression towards high-risk plaques.
- Innate and adaptive immune system
- T cells
- E3 UBIQUITIN LIGASE