Background: Although junctional adhesion molecule-like protein (JAML) has recently been implicated in leukocyte recruitment during inflammation and wound repair, its role in atherosclerosis remains to be elucidated.

Methods and results: First, we showed that JAML was strongly expressed in atherosclerotic plaques of cardiovascular patients. Similar results were obtained with atherosclerotic plaques of ApoE−/− mice. Co-immunofluorescence staining showed that JAML was mainly expressed in macrophages. Enhanced expression of JAML in cultured macrophages was observed following exposure of the cells to oxLDL. The functional role of JAML in atherosclerosis and macrophages function was assessed by interference of JAML with shRNA in vivo and siRNA in vitro. Silencing of JAML in mice significantly attenuated atherosclerotic lesion formation, reduced necrotic core area, increased plaque fibrous cap thickness, decreased macrophages content and inflammation. In addition, histological staining showed that JAML deficiency promoted plaques to stable phenotype. In vitro, JAML siRNA treatment lowered the expression of inflammatory cytokines in macrophages treated with oxLDL. The mechanism by which JAML mediated the inflammatory responses may be related to the ERK/NF-κB activation.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrated that therapeutic drugs which antagonize the function of JAML may be a potentially effective approach to attenuate atherogenesis and enhance plaque stability.

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