Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa R. Tannock


Cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of death worldwide. Serum amyloid A (SAA), a positive acute phase reactant, along with C-reactive protein is used clinically as a marker of cardiovascular disease risk. However, recent data has shed light on a possible causal role of SAA in the development of atherosclerosis, the most pervasive form of cardiovascular disease. Several inflammatory diseases such as diabetes and obesity are known to confer increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Individuals with these diseases all have modest but persistent elevation of SAA. To determine if SAA caused the development of atherosclerosis, apoe-/-chow fed mice were injected with either an adenoviral vector expressing human SAA1 (ad-hSAA1), a null adenoviral vector (ad-Null) or saline. Human SAA levels rapidly increased, albeit briefly then returned to baseline within 14 days in mice that received ad-hSAA1. After 16 weeks, mice that received ad-hSAA1 had significantly increased atherosclerosis compared to controls on the aortic intimal surface (p<0.0001), aortic sinus (p<0.05) and the brachiocephalic artery (p<0.05). According to the “response to retention” hypothesis; lipoprotein retention by vascular wall proteoglycans is a key initiating event in the development of atherosclerosis. We previously reported that SAA-stimulated vascular smooth muscle cells expressed biglycan with increased glycosaminoglycan chain length and increased binding affinity for low density lipoprotein. To further test the role of biglycan on the development of atherosclerosis we generated biglycan transgenic mice. These mice were crossed to the ldlr-/- mouse on a C57BL/6 background and fed a pro-atherogenic western diet for 12 weeks. There was a significant increase in atherosclerotic lesion area on the aortic intimal surface (p<0.05) and the aortic sinus (p<0.006), as well as a significant correlation between vascular biglycan content and aortic sinus atherosclerotic lesion area (p<0.0001). These data demonstrate that transiently increased SAA resulted in increased atherosclerosis compared to control mice, possibly via increased vascular biglycan content. In support of this we found that biglycan transgenic mice had significantly increased atherosclerosis compared to wildtype controls, likely through increased lipid retention in the vascular wall.