Biofilms exacerbate atherogenesis through macrophage-induced inflammatory responses in a fibrous plaque microsystem model

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-345
Journal / PublicationActa Biomaterialia
Online published28 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2023


Background:  Microbes have been implicated in atherosclerosis development and progression, but the impact of bacterial-based biofilms on fibrous plaque rupture remains poorly understood.
Results:  Here, we developed a comprehensive atherosclerotic model to reflect the progression of fibrous plaque under biofilm-induced inflammation (FP-I). High expressions of biofilm-specific biomarkers algD, pelA and pslB validated the presence of biofilms. Biofilm promotes the polarization of macrophages towards a pro-inflammatory (M1) phenotype, as demonstrated by an increase in M1 macrophage-specific marker CD80 expression in CD68+ macrophages. The increase in the number of intracellular lipid droplets(LDs) and foam cell percentage highlighted the potential role of biofilms on lipid synthesis or metabolic pathways in macrophage-derived foam cells. In addition, collagen I production by myofibroblasts associated with the fibrous cap was significantly reduced along with the promotion of apoptosis of myofibroblasts, indicating that biofilms affect the structural integrity of the fibrous cap and potentially undermine its strength.
Conclusion:  We validated the unique role of biofilm-based inflammation in exacerbating fibrous plaque damage in the FP-I model, increasing fibrous plaque instability and risk of thrombosis. Our results lay the foundation for mechanistic studies of the role of biofilms in fibrous plaques, allowing the evaluation of preclinical combination strategies for drug therapy.

Statement of significance

A microsystem-based model was developed to reveal interactions in fibrous plaque during biofilm-induced inflammation (FP-I). Real-time assessment of biofilm formation and its role in fibrous plaque progression was achieved. The presence of biofilms enhanced the expression of pro-inflammatory (M1) specific marker CD80, lipid droplets, and foam cells and reduced anti-inflammatory (M2) specific marker CD206 expression. Fibrous plaque exposure to biofilm-based inflammation reduced collagen I expression and increased apoptosis marker Caspase-3 expression significantly. Overall, we demonstrate the unique role of biofilm-based inflammation in exacerbating fibrous plaque damage in the FP-I model, promoting fibrous plaque instability and enhanced thrombosis risk. Our findings lay the groundwork for mechanistic studies, facilitating the evaluation of preclinical drug combination strategies.
© 2023 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Research Area(s)

  • Fibrous Plaque, Atherosclerosis, Biofilm-based inflammation, Microsystems, Cardiovascular Disease, Macrophages