Diabetes promotes the S-glutathionylation, inactivation and subsequent degradation of mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 1 (MKP-1) in blood monocytes, and hematopoietic MKP-1-deficiency in atherosclerosis-prone mice accelerates atherosclerotic lesion formation, but the underlying mechanisms were not known. Our aim was to determine the mechanisms through which MKP-1 deficiency in monocytes and macrophages promotes atherogenesis. Transplantation of MKP-1-deficient bone marrow into LDL-R -/- (MKP-1LeuKO) mice accelerated high-fat diet (HFD)-induced atherosclerotic lesion formation. After 12 weeks of HFD feeding, MKP-1LeuKO mice showed increased lesion size in both the aortic root (1.2-fold) and the aorta (1.6-fold), despite reduced plasma cholesterol levels. Macrophage content was increased in lesions of MKP-1LeuKO mice compared to mice that received wildtype bone marrow. After only 6 weeks on a HFD, in vivo chemotactic activity of monocytes was already significantly increased in MKP-1 LeuKO mice. MKP-1 deficiency in monocytes and macrophages promotes and accelerates atherosclerotic lesion formation by hyper-sensitizing monocytes to chemokine-induced recruitment, predisposing macrophages to M1 polarization, decreased autophagy and oxysterol-induced cell death whereas overexpression of MKP-1 protects macrophages against metabolic stress-induced dysfunction. MKP-1 serves as a master-regulator of macrophage phenotype and function and its dysregulation by metabolic stress may be a major contributor to atherogenesis and the progression of atherosclerotic plaques.
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