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The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that C-reactive protein (CRP) protects against the development of atherosclerosis and that a conformational alteration of wild-type CRP is necessary for CRP to do so. Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory cardiovascular disease and CRP is a plasma protein produced by the liver in inflammatory states. The co-localization of CRP and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) at atherosclerotic lesions suggests a possible role of CRP in atherosclerosis. CRP binds to phosphocholine-containing molecules but does not interact with LDL unless the phosphocholine groups in LDL are exposed. However, CRP can bind to LDL, without the exposure of phosphocholine groups, if the native conformation of CRP is altered. Previously, we reported a CRP mutant, F66A/T76Y/E81A, generated by site-directed mutagenesis, that did not bind to phosphocholine. Unexpectedly, this mutant CRP, without any more conformational alteration, was found to bind to atherogenic LDL. We hypothesized that this CRP mutant, unlike wild-type CRP, could be anti-atherosclerotic and, accordingly, the effects of mutant CRP on atherosclerosis in atherosclerosis-prone LDL receptor-deficient mice were evaluated. Administration of mutant CRP into mice every other day for a few weeks slowed the progression of atherosclerosis. The size of atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta of mice treated with mutant CRP for 9 weeks was ~40% smaller than the lesions in the aorta of untreated mice. Thus, mutant CRP conferred protection against atherosclerosis, providing a proof of concept that a local inflammation-induced structural change in wild-type CRP is a prerequisite for CRP to control the development of atherosclerosis.

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© 2020 Pathak, Singh, Thewke and Agrawal. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.