Lipid-associated macrophages transition to an inflammatory state in human atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of cerebrovascular complications
Dib L., Koneva LA., Edsfeldt A., Zurke YX., Sun J., Nitulescu M., Attar M., Lutgens E., Schmidt S., Lindholm MW., Choudhury RP., Cassimjee I., Lee R., Handa A., Goncalves I., Sansom SN., Monaco C.
The immune system is integral to cardiovascular health and disease. Targeting inflammation ameliorates adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Atherosclerosis, a major underlying cause of cardiovascular disease, is conceptualized as lipid-driven inflammation in which macrophages play a nonredundant role. However, evidence emerging so far from single-cell atlases suggests a dichotomy between lipid-associated and inflammatory macrophage states. Here, we present an inclusive reference atlas of human intraplaque immune cell communities. Combining single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) of human surgical carotid endarterectomies in a discovery cohort with bulk RNA-seq and immunohistochemistry in a validation cohort (the Carotid Plaque Imaging Project), we reveal the existence of PLIN2hi/TREM1hi macrophages as a Toll-like receptor (TLR)-dependent inflammatory lipid-associated macrophage state linked to cerebrovascular events. Our study shifts the current paradigm of lipid-driven inflammation by providing biological evidence for a pathogenic macrophage transition to an inflammatory lipid-associated phenotype and for its targeting as a new treatment strategy for cardiovascular disease.