Although the Canakinumab Anti-Inflammatory Thrombosis Outcomes Study (CANTOS) established the role of treating inflammation in atherosclerosis, our understanding of endothelial activation at atherosclerosis-prone sites remains limited. Disturbed flow at atheroprone regions primes plaque inflammation by enhancing endothelial NF-κB signaling. Herein, we demonstrate a role for the Nck adaptor proteins in disturbed flow–induced endothelial activation. Although highly similar, only Nck1 deletion, but not Nck2 deletion, limited flow-induced NF-κB activation and proinflammatory gene expression. Nck1-knockout mice showed reduced endothelial activation and inflammation in both models, disturbed flow– and high fat diet–induced atherosclerosis, whereas Nck2 deletion did not. Bone marrow chimeras confirmed that vascular Nck1, but not hematopoietic Nck1, mediated this effect. Domain-swap experiments and point mutations identified the Nck1 SH2 domain and the first SH3 domain as critical for flow-induced endothelial activation. We further characterized Nck1’s proinflammatory role by identifying interleukin 1 type I receptor kinase-1 (IRAK-1) as a Nck1-selective binding partner, demonstrating that IRAK-1 activation by disturbed flow required Nck1 in vitro and in vivo, showing endothelial Nck1 and IRAK-1 staining in early human atherosclerosis, and demonstrating that disturbed flow–induced endothelial activation required IRAK-1. Taken together, our data reveal a hitherto unknown link between Nck1 and IRAK-1 in atherogenic inflammation.


Mabruka Alfaidi, Christina H. Acosta, Dongdong Wang, James G. Traylor, A. Wayne Orr


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