Extracellular superoxide was detected in cultures of monkey and human arterial smooth muscle cells as indicated by superoxide dismutase inhibitable reduction of cytochrome c. Superoxide production by these cells in the presence of Fe or Cu resulted in modification of low density lipoprotein (LDL). The degree of LDL modification was directly proportional to the rate of superoxide production by cells. Superoxide dismutase (100 micrograms/ml), and the general free radical scavengers butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole (50 microM), inhibited Fe- and Cu-mediated modification of LDL by monkey smooth muscle cells, while catalase (100 micrograms/ml) and mannitol (25 mM) had no effect. The chelators desferrioxamine and diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid completely inhibited Fe- and Cu-promoted modification of LDL, while EGTA had no inhibitory effect. EDTA stimulated Fe-promoted modification in the 1-100 microM range while inhibiting Cu-mediated modification of LDL. LDL modified by smooth muscle cells in the presence of 10 microM Fe or Cu stimulated [14C]oleate incorporation into cholesteryl ester by human macrophages and murine J774 cells to a degree comparable to that produced by acetylated LDL. LDL incubated with smooth muscle cells and metal ions in the presence of superoxide dismutase failed to enhance macrophage cholesteryl ester accumulation. Thus, arterial smooth muscle cells in culture generate superoxide and modify LDL by a superoxide-dependent, Fe or Cu catalyzed free radical process, resulting in enhanced uptake of the modified LDL by macrophages. Neither hydroxyl radicals nor H2O2 are likely to be involved. Superoxide-dependent lipid peroxidation may contribute to biological modification of LDL, resulting in foam cell formation and atherogenesis.
J W Heinecke, L Baker, H Rosen, A Chait