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Merckelbach, Sophie; Vorst, Emiel P. C. van der; Kallmayer, Michael; Rischpler, Christoph; Burgkart, Rainer; Döring, Yvonne; Borst, Gert-Jan de; Schwaiger, Markus; Eckstein, Hans-Henning; Weber, Christian; Pelisek, Jaroslav (2018): Expression and Cellular Localization of CXCR4 and CXCL12 in Human Carotid Atherosclerotic Plaques. In: Thrombosis and Haemostasis, Vol. 118, No. 1: pp. 195-206
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Background and Aims: The CXCR4/CXCL12 complex has already been associated with progression of atherosclerosis; however, its exact role is yet unknown. The aim of this study was to analyse the expression and cellular localization of CXCL12 and its receptor CXCR4 in human carotid atherosclerotic plaques. Methods: Carotid plaques (n = 58;31 stable, 27 unstable, based on histological characterization of plaque morphology) were obtained during carotid endarterectomy, and 10 healthy vessels were used as a control. Expression of cxcr4, cxcr7, cxcl12, ccl2/ccr2 and csf1/csf1r was analysed at mRNA, and level expression of CXCR4, CXCR7 and CXCL12 was analysed at protein level. Cellular localization was determined using consecutive and double immunohistochemical (IHC) staining and microdissection. Results AtmRNAlevel, cxcr4, cxcr7 and cxcl12 were significantly higher expressed instable carotid plaques compared with controls (p = 0.011, p < 0.001 and p < 0.001). Cxcl12 mRNA expression was successively augmented toward unstable plaques (p < 0.001). At protein level, CXCR4, CXCR7 and CXCL12 expression was significantly increased in both stable (p = 0.001, p < 0.001 and p = 0.035, respectively) and unstable (p = 0.003, p < 0.001 and p = 0.045, respectively) plaques compared with controls. Using IHC, CXCR4 was particularly localized in macrophages and small neovessels. Microdissection confirmed strongest expression of cxcr4 in macrophages within atherosclerotic plaques. Leukocytes and smooth muscle cells showed cxcr4 expression as well. For cxcl12, only microdissected areas with macrophages were positive. Conclusion: Expression of CXCR4 and CXCL12 was significantly increased in both stable and unstable carotid atherosclerotic plaques compared with healthy vessels, both at mRNA and protein level. CXCR4 and CXCL12 were localized particularly in macrophages.