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An accelerated mouse model for atherosclerosis and adipose tissue inflammation

Angelika Neuhofer1, Bernhard Wernly1, Lukas Leitner1, Alisina Sarabi1, Nicole G Sommer1, Günther Staffler2, Maximilian Zeyda1 and Thomas M Stulnig1*

Author Affiliations

1 Christian Doppler Laboratory for Cardio-Metabolic Immunotherapy and Clinical Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Medicine III, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

2 AFFiRiS AG, Vienna, Austria

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Cardiovascular Diabetology 2014, 13:23  doi:10.1186/1475-2840-13-23

Published: 17 January 2014



Obesity and particularly the metabolic syndrome, which is often associated with obesity, combine a major risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Emerging evidence indicate obesity-associated subclinical inflammation primarily originating from adipose tissue as a common cause for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, a suitable and well-characterized mouse model to simultaneously study obesity-associated metabolic disorders and atherosclerosis is not available yet. Here we established and characterized a murine model combining diet-induced obesity and associated adipose tissue inflammation and metabolic deteriorations as well as atherosclerosis, hence reflecting the human situation of cardio-metabolic disease.


We compared a common high-fat diet with 0.15% cholesterol (HFC), and a high-fat, high-sucrose diet with 0.15% cholesterol (HFSC) fed to LDL receptor-deficient (LDLR-/-) mice. Insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, atherosclerotic lesion formation, hepatic lipid accumulation, and inflammatory gene expression in adipose tissue and liver were assessed.


After 12–16 weeks, LDLR-/- mice fed HFSC or HFC developed significant diet-induced obesity, adipose tissue inflammation, insulin resistance, and impaired glucose tolerance compared to lean controls. Notably, HFSC-fed mice developed significantly higher adipose tissue inflammation in parallel with significantly elevated atherosclerotic lesion area compared to those on HFC. Moreover, LDLR-/- mice on HFSC showed increased insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance relative to those on HFC. After prolonged feeding (20 weeks), however, no significant differences in inflammatory and metabolic parameters as well as atherosclerotic lesion formation were detectable any more between LDLR-/- mice fed HFSC or HFC.


The use of high sucrose rather than more complex carbohydrates in high-fat diets significantly accelerates development of obesity-driven metabolic complications and atherosclerotic plaque formation parallel to obesity-induced adipose tissue inflammation in LDLR-/- mice. Hence LDLR-/- mice fed high-fat high-sucrose cholesterol-enriched diet appear to be a suitable and time-saving animal model for cardio-metabolic disease. Moreover our results support the suggested interrelation between adipose tissue inflammation and atherosclerotic plaque formation.

Metabolic syndrome; Diet-induced obesity; Sucrose-enrichment; Adipose tissue inflammation; Insulin resistance; Glucose intolerance; Atherosclerosis; Type 2 diabetes; Cardio-metabolic disease