Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) increases local IGF-I bioavailability through cleavage of inhibitory IGF binding protein (IGFBP)-4 in a variety of systems, including the cardiovascular system. To test the hypothesis that expression of PAPP-A promotes the development of atherosclerotic lesions, we generated transgenic mice that express human PAPP-A in arterial smooth muscle. Four founder lines were characterized for transgenic human PAPP-A mRNA and protein expression, IGFBP-4 protease activity, and tissue specificity. In study I, apolipoprotein E knockout (ApoE KO) mice, a well-characterized mouse model of atherosclerosis, and ApoE KO mice expressing the human PAPP-A transgene at relatively high levels (ApoE KO/Tg) were fed a high-fat diet. At harvest, aortas were dissected and opened longitudinally for en face staining of lipid-rich lesions. Lesion area was increased 3.5-fold in aortas from ApoE KO/Tg compared with ApoE KO mice (P < 0.001), but no significant difference was seen in lesion number. In study II, replacement of PAPP-A expression in arterial smooth muscle of double ApoE KO/PAPP-A KO mice resulted in a 2.5-fold increase in lesion area (P = 0.002), without an effect on lesion number. PAPP-A transgene expression was associated with a significant increase in an IGF-responsive gene (P < 0.001), suggesting increased local IGF-I action. We therefore conclude that expression of human PAPP-A localized to arterial smooth muscle accelerates lesion progression in a mouse model of atherosclerosis. These data provide further evidence for the importance of PAPP-A in the cardiovascular system and suggest PAPP-A as a potential therapeutic target in the control of atherosclerosis.
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