Objective: Enhanced endothelial permeability leading to intimal accumulation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) stimulates the formation of atherosclerotic lesions. Histamine is known to increase vascular permeability. Whether this affects the formation of atherosclerotic lesions, however, remains elusive.
Methods and results: Apolipoprotein E-null (ApoE(-/-)) mice treated with a histamine H1 receptor but not an H2 receptor antagonist developed 40% fewer atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta than placebo-treated controls. Similarly, genetic deletion of the H1 but not the H2 receptor resulted in a 60% reduction of lesions compared with ApoE(-/-) controls. The H1 receptor enhanced LDL permeability and lipid accumulation in the aorta, whereas plasma lipoprotein levels remained unaltered. In contrast, the H1 receptor did not affect proliferation and migration of vascular smooth muscle cells. Bone marrow transplantation confirmed that the formation of atherosclerotic lesions depended on the H1 receptor in vascular cells, whereas its presence in bone marrow-derived cells was irrelevant for plaque development. Mice expressing the H1 receptor exhibited higher levels of the chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 5 and higher numbers of macrophages and T-helper lymphocytes in plaques, higher numbers of circulating lymphocytes, and larger spleens.
Conclusion: These data indicate that H1 but not H2 receptor activation drives the formation of atherosclerotic lesions through an increased vascular permeability for LDL, which is associated with an enhanced secondary aortic and systemic inflammation. These data open novel perspectives for the prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic vascular disease.