Inflammation and abnormal adhesion of sickle red blood cells (RBCs), leukocytes and platelets to the vascular endothelium are postulated to play a central role in the pathogenesis of vaculopathy associated with sickle cell disease (SCD). Dysfunctional endothelial cells in the SCD vaso-occlusive process display vasoconstriction, proinflammatory and prothrombotic changes. Sickle RBCs may damage or activate the endothelium via enhanced expression of cell surface adhesion molecules such as vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM), intercellular adhesion molecules (ICAM), platelet endothelial cellular adhesion marker (PECAM), E- selectin, and P-selectin. In addition, SCD modulates high levels of circulating soluble adhesion molecules especially during the sickle cell crisis. Lectin-like oxidized low-density lipoprotein receptor-1 (LOX-1) is an endothelial cell receptor for oxidized low-density lipoprotein. The enhanced expression of LOX-1 in endothelial cells has been identified in a variety of pathologic conditions including atherosclerosis, diabetic vasculopathy, hyperlipidemia and inflammation. The purpose of this study is to investigate changes in the expression of LOX-1 and its potential role in the pathogenesis of SCD vasculopathy.
Using real time quantitative PCR, we analyzed LOX-1 gene expression in cultured human coronary endothelial cells (HCEC) following static incubation with sickle RBCs. We also measured circulating soluble LOX-1 (sLOX-1) concentrations by sandwich ELISA assay in SCD patient plasma. The statistical analysis was performed using Student's t-test.
LOX-1 gene expression in HCEC was significantly increased by incubation with sickle RBCs compared with normal RBCs. Upregulation was detected after 1 hour of incubation, and reached a peak after 6 hours. We studied 48 SCD (hemoglobin SS) patients (26 female, 22 male); vs 17 healthy (hemoglobin AA) control subjects (12 female, 5 male). The SCD cohort comprised pediatric and adult patients in steady-state (33 patients) and vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC; 15 patients). The concentration of circulating sLOX-1 protein in plasma of SCD patients (mean: 3.05±2.53 ng/mL; range 0.30 – 11.30 ng/mL) was significantly higher (p=0.0046) than in control healthy subjects (mean: 1.27±0.81 ng/mL). In the 15 SCD patients with VOC, sLOX-1 concentrations were higher, (mean: 3.65±2.40 ng/mL).
Our study reveals that LOX-1 gene expression in endothelial cells is upregulated by incubation with SCD erythrocytes. Baseline circulating sLOX-1 levels are elevated in SCD patients compared with healthy controls. sLOX-1 levels are further elevated in VOC. Enhanced LOX-1 expression in endothelial cells may play a role in the pathophysiology of SCD vasculopathy. Studies of sLOX-1 in SCD may provide new insights into risk stratification, and may lead to novel therapeutic strategies for sickle cell patients with acute vascular complications.
Green:Emisphere - Consultancy: Consultancy; Teva Pharmaceuticals - expert testimony: Consultancy.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.