Disturbed blood flow induces RelA expression via c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1: a novel mode of NF-κB regulation that promotes arterial inflammation.
Cuhlmann S., Van der Heiden K., Saliba D., Tremoleda JL., Khalil M., Zakkar M., Chaudhury H., Luong LEA., Mason JC., Udalova I., Gsell W., Jones H., Haskard DO., Krams R., Evans PC.
RATIONALE: The nuclear factor (NF)-κB pathway is involved in arterial inflammation. Although the signaling pathways that regulate transcriptional activation of NF-κB are defined, the mechanisms that regulate the expression levels of NF-κB transcription factors are uncertain. OBJECTIVE: We studied the signaling mechanisms that regulate RelA NF-κB subunit expression in endothelial cells (ECs) and their role in arterial inflammation. METHODS AND RESULTS: Gene silencing and chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed that RelA expression was positively regulated by c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and the downstream transcription factor ATF2 in ECs. We concluded that this pathway promotes focal arterial inflammation as genetic deletion of JNK1 reduced NF-κB expression and macrophage accumulation at an atherosusceptible site. We hypothesized that JNK signaling to NF-κB may be controlled by mechanical forces because atherosusceptibility is associated with exposure to disturbed blood flow. This was assessed by positron emission tomography imaging of carotid arteries modified with a constrictive cuff, a method that was developed to study the effects of disturbed flow on vascular physiology in vivo. This approach coupled to en face staining revealed that disturbed flow elevates NF-κB expression and inflammation in murine carotid arteries via JNK1. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate that disturbed blood flow promotes arterial inflammation by inducing NF-κB expression in endothelial cells via JNK-ATF2 signaling. Thus, our findings illuminate a novel form of JNK-NF-κB crosstalk that may determine the focal nature of arterial inflammation and atherosclerosis.