Premature and extensive atheroscleroses involving renal, peripheral, and cardiovascular sites remain major complications of diabetes mellitus. Controversy exists as to the contribution of hyperglycemia versus elevated local or systemic concentrations of insulin to atherosclerosis risk. In this report, we developed the first murine model susceptible to both atherosclerosis and diabetes to determine which diabetogenic factors contribute to vascular disease. C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice were treated with multiple low-dose streptozotocin (STZ) or control citrate buffer and fed rodent chow or an atherogenic-promoting (Ath) diet for 12-20 wk. STZ treatment resulted in sustained hyperglycemia (250-420 mg/dl) and a modest reduction in plasma insulin levels for both strains regardless of diet. Citrate-treated C57BL/6 mice fed the Ath diet showed extensive oil red O-staining fatty streak aortic sinus lesions (20,537+/-2,957 micron2), the size of which did not differ for Ath-fed mice treated with STZ (16,836+/-2,136 micron2). In contrast, hyperglycemic BALB/c mice fed the Ath diet showed a 17-fold increase in atherosclerotic lesion area (7,922+/-2,096 micron2) as compared with citrate-treated mice fed the Ath diet (467+/-318 micron2). Correlations between lesion size and plasma glucose levels were significant for BALB/c (r = 0.741, P < 0.009), but not C57BL/6 (r = 0.314, P<0.3) mice. Lesion size correlated significantly with plasma cholesterol for C57BL/6 (r = 0.612, P<0.03) but not BALB/c (r = 0.630, P<0.1) mice. Immunohistochemistry showed that aortic sinus lesions from both strains contained macrophages, but smooth muscle cells were clearly present in lesions of BALB/c mice. In summary, we present the first small animal model showing accelerated atherosclerosis in response to hyperglycemia. Fatty streaks resembled those of human type II lesions in that both macrophages and smooth muscle cells were evident. In addition, our results support the concept that hyperglycemia as opposed to hyperinsulinemia contributes heavily to risk of atherosclerosis.
V V Kunjathoor, D L Wilson, R C LeBoeuf