01 July 2020
Multiple lines of evidence suggest that intraplaque (IP) neovascularization promotes atherosclerotic plaque growth, destabilization, and rupture. However, pharmacological inhibition of IP neovascularization remains largely unexplored due to the limited number of animal models that develop IP neovessels and the lack of reliable methods for visualizing IP angiogenesis. Here, we applied 3D confocal microscopy with an optimized tissue-clearing process, immunolabeling-enabled three-dimensional imaging of solvent-cleared organs, to visualize IP neovessels in apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE<sup>−/−</sup>) mice carrying a heterozygous mutation (C1039+/−) in the fibrillin-1 gene. Unlike regular ApoE<sup>−/−</sup> mice, this mouse model is characterized by the presence of advanced plaques with evident IP neovascularization. Plaques were stained with antibodies against endothelial marker CD31 for 3 days, followed by incubation with fluorescently labeled secondary antibodies. Subsequent tissue clearing with dichloromethane (DCM)/methanol, DCM, and dibenzyl ether allowed easy visualization and 3D reconstruction of the IP vascular network while plaque morphology remained intact.