Scavenger receptors mediate uptake of modified low density lipoproteins by macrophages. The accumulation of lipids via this process is thought to lead to foam cell formation in developing atherosclerotic plaques. Smooth muscle cells, which can also be converted to foam cells in vivo, have not been shown to express the same scavenger receptor previously cloned in macrophages. We report the cloning of two cDNAs that encode type I and type II scavenger receptors isolated from rabbit smooth muscle cells. The deduced protein sequences of these isolates are highly homologous to the scavenger receptors previously isolated from macrophages. Treatment of smooth muscle cells with phorbol esters induced a marked increase in scavenger receptor mRNA and a fivefold increase in receptor degradation activity. Rabbit venous endothelial cells in primary culture and a bovine aortic endothelial cell line had no detectable scavenger receptor mRNA, despite having scavenger receptor degradation activity. The latter finding suggests that endothelial cells may possess a scavenger receptor which is structurally distinct from that found in macrophages and smooth muscle cells. The isolation of cDNAs encoding the rabbit scavenger receptor should prove useful for in vitro and in vivo studies that employ the rabbit as a model of human atherosclerosis.
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