Oxidative modification of LDL is an early pathological event in the development of atherosclerosis. Oxidation events such as malondialdehyde (MDA) formation may produce specific, immunogenic epitopes. Indeed, antibodies to MDA-derived epitopes are widely used in atherosclerosis research and have been demonstrated to enable cardiovascular imaging. In this study, we engineered a transgenic zebrafish with temperature-inducible expression of an EGFP-labeled single-chain human monoclonal antibody, IK17, which binds to MDALDL, and used optically transparent zebrafish larvae for imaging studies. Feeding a high-cholesterol diet (HCD) supplemented with a red fluorescent lipid marker to the transgenic zebrafish resulted in vascular lipid accumulation, quantified in live animals using confocal microscopy. After heat shock-induced expression of IK17-EGFP, we measured the time course of vascular accumulation of IK17-specific MDA epitopes. Treatment with either an antioxidant or a regression diet resulted in reduced IK17 binding to vascular lesions. Interestingly, homogenates of IK17-EGFP-expressing larvae bound to MDA-LDL and inhibited MDA-LDL binding to macrophages. Moreover, sustained expression of IK17-EGFP effectively prevented HCD-induced lipid accumulation in the vascular wall, suggesting that the antibody itself may have therapeutic effects. Thus, we conclude that HCD-fed zebrafish larvae with conditional expression of EGFP-labeled oxidation-specific antibodies afford an efficient method of testing dietary and/or other therapeutic antioxidant strategies that may ultimately be applied to humans.
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