In this review, we have highlighted pivotal cellular and molecular events in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. Key components of lesion initiation are an enhanced focal intimal influx and accumulation of lipoproteins, including LDL in hemodynamically determined lesion-prone areas, focal monocyte-macrophage recruitment, intimal generation of ROS, and oxidative modification of lipoproteins (including LDL [Ox-LDL]). Modified lipoproteins are taken up by the non-downregulating macrophage scavenger receptor, with foam cell formation and the development of the so-called fatty streak. One transitional event in lesion progression is foam cell necrosis, likely attributable to the cytotoxicity of both intimal free radicals and Ox-LDL, with development of an extracellular metabolically inert lipid core. Another is the migration to and proliferation within the intima of medial SMCs, leading to the synthesis of plaque collagens, elastin, and proteoglycans. Mural thrombosis plays a significant role in the late-stage progression of lesions. Regression of lesions is considered a function of the dynamic balance among components of initiation, progression, plaque stabilization, and removal of plaque constituents—the so-called regression quartet. Here, we critically examine how components of diabetes mellitus might impact not only lesion development, but also lesion regression. It is concluded that some components of diabetes mellitus augment key mechanisms in lesion initiation and progression and will likely retard the processes of plaque regression. Specifically, we focus on the various influences of diabetes mellitus on lipoprotein influx and accumulation, free radical generation and Ox-LDL, monocyte-macrophage recruitment, thrombosis and impaired fibrinolysis, and the reverse cholesterol transport system. The importance of nonenzymatic protein glycosylation in modifying a number of these processes is emphasized.

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