• Cardiac allograft vasculopathy;
  • heart;
  • macrophage;
  • mouse;
  • transplant arteriopathy

Cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) is a major source of late posttransplant mortality. Although numerous cell types are implicated in the pathogenesis of CAV, it is unclear which cells actually induce the vascular damage that results in intimal proliferation. Because macrophages are abundant in CAV lesions and are capable of producing growth factors implicated in neointimal proliferation, they are leading end-effector candidates. Macrophages were depleted in a murine heterotopic cardiac transplant system known to develop fulminant CAV lesions. C57BL/6 hearts were transplanted into (C57BL/6 × BALB/c)F1 recipients, which then received anti-macrophage therapy with intraperitoneal carrageenan or i.v. gadolinium. Intraperitoneal carrageenan treatment depleted macrophages by 30–80% with minimal effects upon T, B or NK cells as confirmed by flow cytometry and NK cytotoxicity assays. Carrageenan treatment led to a 70% reduction in the development of CAV, as compared to mock-treated controls (p = 0.01), which correlated with the degree of macrophage depletion. Inhibition of macrophage phagocytosis alone with gadolinium failed to prevent CAV. Macrophages may represent the end-effector cells in a final common pathway towards CAV independent of T-cell or B-cell alloreactivity and exert their injurious effects through mechanisms related to cytokine/growth factor production rather than phagocytosis.