Kabir I. et al.
Aging is the predominant risk factor for atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death. Rare smooth muscle cell (SMC) progenitors clonally expand giving rise to up to ~70\% of atherosclerotic plaque cells; however, the effect of age on SMC clonality is not known. Our results indicate that aged bone marrow (BM)-derived cells non-cell autonomously induce SMC polyclonality and worsen atherosclerosis. Indeed, in myeloid cells from aged mice and humans, TET2 levels are reduced which epigenetically silences integrin β3 resulting in increased tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-α signaling. TNFα signals through TNF receptor 1 on SMCs to promote proliferation and induces recruitment and expansion of multiple SMC progenitors into the atherosclerotic plaque. Notably, integrin β3 overexpression in aged BM preserves dominance of the lineage of a single SMC progenitor and attenuates plaque burden. Our results demonstrate a molecular mechanism of aged macrophage-induced SMC polyclonality and atherogenesis and suggest novel therapeutic strategies.