Objective: The role of chronic inflammation in abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is controversial. CD11c+ antigen-presenting cells (APCs) (dendritic cells (DCs)) have been reported in human AAA samples but their role is unclear. The effect of conditional depletion of CD11c+ cells on experimental AAA was investigated in the angiotensin II (AngII)-infused apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE–/–) mouse model.

Approach: CD11c-diphtheria toxin (DT or D.tox) receptor (DTR), ovalbumin (OVA) fragment aa 140–386, and enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP)-ApoE–/– (CD11c.DOG.ApoE–/–) mice were generated and CD11c+ cell depletion achieved with D.tox injections (8 ng/g body weight, i.p., every-other-day). AAA formation and growth were assessed by measurement of supra-renal aortic (SRA) diameter in vivo by serial ultrasound and by morphometry assessment of harvested aortas at the end of the study.

Results: Depletion of CD11c+ cells by administration of D.tox on alternative days was shown to reduce the maximum diameter of AAAs induced by 28 days AngII infusion compared with controls (D.tox, 1.58 ± 0.03 mm vs Vehicle control, 1.81 ± 0.06 mm, P<0.001). CD11c+ depletion commencing after AAA establishment by 14 days of AngII infusion, was also shown to lead to smaller AAAs than controls after a further 14 days (D.tox, 1.54 ± 0.04 mm vs Vehicle control, 1.80 ± 0.03 mm, P<0.001). Flow cytometry revealed significantly lower numbers of circulating CD44hi CD62Llo effector CD4 T cells, CD44hi CD62Llo effector CD8 T cells and B220+ B cells in CD11c+ cell-depleted mice versus controls. CD11c+ depletion attenuated SRA matrix degradation indicated by decreased neutrophil elastase activity (P=0.014), lower elastin degradation score (P=0.012) and higher collagen content (P=0.002).

Conclusion: CD11c+ cell-depletion inhibited experimental AAA development and growth associated with down-regulation of circulating effector T cells and attenuated matrix degradation. The findings suggest involvement of autoreactive immune cells in AAA pathogenesis.

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