Atherosclerosis is a complex and heritable disease involving multiple cell types and the interactions of many different molecular pathways. The genetic and molecular mechanisms of atherosclerosis have in part been elucidated by mouse models; at least 100 different genes have been shown to influence atherosclerosis in mice. Importantly, unbiased genome-wide association studies have recently identified a number of novel loci robustly associated with atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (CAD). Here we review the genetic data elucidated from mouse models of atherosclerosis, as well as significant associations for human CAD. Furthermore, we discuss in greater detail some of these novel human CAD loci. The combination of mouse and human genetics has the potential to identify and validate novel genes that influence atherosclerosis, some of which may be candidates for new therapeutic approaches.
CAD; Lipids; Mice; GWAS; Genome-wide
Inflammation is a critical component of atherosclerosis. IL-1 is a classic proinflammatory cytokine that has been linked to atherosclerosis. A clinical trial has been launched in which an antibody specific for IL-1β is being studied for its effects on cardiovascular events in patients with atherosclerosis. In this issue of the JCI, Alexander et al. report that mice lacking the receptor for IL-1 unexpectedly have features of advanced atherosclerosis that suggest the atherosclerotic plaques may be less stable. These findings illustrate the complexity of inflammatory pathways in atherosclerosis and suggest the need for careful calibration of antiinflammatory approaches to atherosclerosis.
To examine the role of lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2/PLA2G7) in human inflammation and coronary atherosclerosis.
Lp-PLA2 has emerged as a potential therapeutic target in coronary heart disease (CHD). Data supporting Lp-PLA2 are indirect and confounded by species differences; whether Lp-PLA2 is causal in CHD remains in question.
We examined inflammatory regulation of Lp-PLA2 during experimental endotoxemia in human, probed the source of Lp-PLA2 in human leukocytes under inflammatory conditions, and assessed the relationship of variation in PLA2G7, the gene encoding Lp-PLA2, with coronary artery calcification (CAC).
In contrast to circulating TNFα and CRP, blood and monocyte Lp-PLA2 mRNA decreased transiently, and plasma Lp-PLA2 mass declined modestly during endotoxemia. In vitro, Lp-PLA2 expression increased dramatically during human monocyte to macrophage differentiation and further in inflammatory macrophages and foam like-cells. Despite only a marginal association of SNPs in PLA2G7 with Lp-PLA2 activity or mass, numerous PLA2G7 SNPs were associated with CAC. In contrast, several SNPs in CRP were significantly associated with plasma CRP levels but had no relation with CAC.
Circulating Lp-PLA2 did not increase during acute phase response in human, while inflammatory macrophages and foam cells, but not circulating monocytes, are major leukocyte sources of Lp-PLA2. Common genetic variation in PLA2G7 is associated with sub-clinical coronary atherosclerosis. These data link Lp-PLA2 to atherosclerosis in human while highlighting the challenge in using circulating Lp-PLA2 as a biomarker of Lp-PLA2 actions in the vasculature.
Lp-PLA2; PLA2G7; CAC
Arterial stiffening is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but how arteries stay supple is unknown. Here, we show that apolipoprotein E (apoE) and apoE-containing HDL maintain arterial elasticity by suppressing the expression of extracellular matrix genes. ApoE interrupts a mechanically driven feed-forward loop which increases the expression of collagen-I, fibronectin, and lysyl oxidase in response to substratum stiffening. These effects are independent of the apoE lipid-binding domain and transduced by Cox2 and miR-145. Arterial stiffness is increased in apoE-null mice, this stiffening can be reduced by administration of the lysyl oxidase inhibitor, BAPN, and BAPN treatment attenuates atherosclerosis despite highly elevated cholesterol. Macrophage abundance in lesions is reduced by BAPN in vivo, and monocyte/macrophage adhesion is reduced by substratum softening in vitro. We conclude that apoE and apoE-containing HDL promote healthy arterial biomechanics, and this confers protection from cardiovascular disease independent of the established apoE-HDL effect on cholesterol.
Peroxisome proliferator-activate receptorα (PPARα) activation has been shown in vitro to increase macrophage cholesterol efflux, the initial step in reverse cholesterol transport (RCT). However, it remains unclear whether PPARα activation promotes macrophage RCT in vivo.
Methods and Results
We demonstrated that a specific potent PPARα agonist GW7647 inhibited atherosclerosis and promoted macrophage RCT in hypercholesterolemic mice expressing the human apoA-I gene. We compared the effect of GW7647 on RCT in human apoA-I transgenic (hA-ITg) mice with wild-type (WT) mice and showed that the PPARα agonist promoted RCT in hA-ITg mice to a much greater extent than in WT mice, indicating that human apoA-I expression is important for PPARα-induced RCT. We further investigated the dependence of the macrophage PPARα-LXR pathway on the promotion of RCT by GW7647. Primary murine macrophages lacking PPARα or LXR abolished the ability of GW7647 to promote RCT in hA-ITg mice. In concert, the PPARα agonist promoted cholesterol efflux and ABCA1/ABCG1 expression in primary macrophages and this was also by the PPARα-LXR pathway.
Our observations demonstrate that a potent PPARα agonist promotes macrophage RCT in vivo in a manner that is enhanced by human apoA-I expression and dependent on both macrophage PPARα and LXR expression.
PPARα; LXR; cholesterol efflux; reverse cholesterol transport; apolipoprotein A-I
Reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) is the process by which excess cholesterol is removed from peripheral tissue by high density lipoprotein (HDL) and delivered to the liver for excretion. Presently, methods of measuring in vivo RCT do so by monitoring the appearance in the feces of labeled cholesterol that originated from peripheral macrophage foam cells. These methods do not account for changes in macrophage cholesterol mass. We have developed an in vivo assay to measure cholesterol mass changes in atherosclerotic foam cells.
Methods and Results
Macrophages are entrapped in semi-permeable (pore size 0.2μm) hollow fibers and surgically implanted into the peritoneum of recipient mice. The fibers are removed from the peritoneum 24h after implantation. This method allows the complete recovery of the macrophages for quantification of changes in cholesterol mass and cellular protein. In wild type mice we measured a significant reduction in total cell cholesterol (TC) when hollow fibers containing cholesterol-enriched macrophage cells were implanted (TC before implantation = 105±18μg/mg cell protein, TC 24h after implantation = 60±16μg/mg protein). Additionally, there was an increase in cholesterol content when hollow fibers containing cholesterol-normal macrophages were implanted in an atherogenic mouse model (LDLr/apobec dko) compared to a wild type mouse (initial TC content = 57±24μg/mg protein, TC 24h after implantation: wild type mice = 52±10μg/mg protein; LDLr/apobec dko mice = 118±27μg/mg protein).
This assay can quantify in vivo both cholesterol mass accumulation, and reduction, in macrophages. This method permits quantitative analysis of the progression and regression of foam cells.
Atherosclerosis; lipoprotein; lipids; reverse cholesterol transport
The niacin receptor GPR109A is a Gi-protein coupled receptor which mediates the effects of niacin on inhibiting intracellular triglyceride lipolysis in adipocytes. However, the role of GPR109A in mediating the effects of niacin on high density lipoprotein (HDL) metabolism is unclear. We found niacin has no effect on HDL-C in GPR109A knockout mice. Furthermore, niacin lowered intracellular cAMP in primary hepatocytes mediated by GPR109A. We used an adeno-associated viral (AAV) serotype 8 vector encoding GPR109A under the control of the hepatic-specific thyroxine-binding globulin promoter to specifically overexpress GPR109A in mouse liver. Plasma HDL-C, hepatic ABCA1 and the HDL cholesterol production rate were significantly reduced in mice overexpressing GPR109A. Overexpression of GPR109A reduced primary hepatocyte free cholesterol efflux to apoA-I; conversely, GPR109A deficient hepatocytes had increased ABCA1-mediated cholesterol efflux. These data support the concept that the HDL-C lowering effect of niacin in wild-type mice is mediated through stimulation of GPR109A in hepatocytes; such an effect then leads to reduced hepatocyte ABCA1 expression and activity, decreased cholesterol efflux to nascent apoA-I, and reduced HDL-C levels. These results indicate that niacin-mediated activation of GP109A in liver lowers ABCA1 expression leading to reduced hepatic cholesterol efflux to HDL.
niacin; GPR109A; HDL; ABCA1; AAV
Several high profile failures of lipid-related therapeutics in clinical trials have led to intense interest in improved discovery and preclinical prioritization of potential targets. The careful study of patients with rare monogenic disorders has played a key role in establishing the causal role of cholesterol in atherosclerosis and highlighting viable drug targets. Systematic efforts to extend the association of common variants linked with lipid levels to coronary disease allow assessment of the vascular consequences of lifelong differences in lipids due to variation in specific molecules. This application of genetic epidemiology, termed Mendelian randomization, may prove useful in informing ongoing drug development efforts.
Plasma concentrations of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) are strongly, consistently, and independently inversely associated with risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD).1 A series of animal studies in the 1990s, primarily involving overexpression of the major HDL protein apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I) with subsequent increases in HDL-C, showed reduced progression or even regression of atherosclerosis, fitting nicely with the “HDL hypothesis” that raising HDL-C is causally associated with benefit. However, the last decade has seen several observations that do not follow this simple script. Some examples include the following: (1) the demonstration that scavenger receptor class BI knockout mice have increased HDL-C but increased atherosclerosis2; (2) the suggestion that some persons with high HDL-C levels have “dysfunctional” HDL that may not be protective3; and (3) the observation that the cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitor torcetrapib raised HDL-C levels considerably but did not decrease, and indeed increased, cardiovascular risk.4,5 These developments have brought into major question the simple hypothesis that higher HDL-C directly and causally results in reduced atherosclerosis and challenge the approach of developing therapies that raise HDL-C levels.
Editorials; atherosclerosis; cholesterol; cholesterol; HDL; lipoproteins
Coronary artery calcification (CAC) is associated with increased mortality risk in the general population. Although individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at markedly increased mortality risk, the incidence, prevalence, and prognosis of CAC in CKD is not well-understood.
Cross-sectional observational study.
Setting and Participants
Analysis of 1,908 participants who underwent coronary calcium scanning as part of the multi-ethnic CRIC (Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort) Study.
Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) computed using the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) Study equation, stratified by race, sex and diabetic status. eGFR was treated as a continous variable and a categorical variable compared to the reference range of >60 ml/min/1.73 m2
CAC detected using CT scans using either an Imatron C-300 electron beam computed tomography scanner or multi-detector CT scanner. CAC was computed using the Agatston score, as a categorical variable. Analyses were performed using ordinal logistic regression.
We found a strong and graded relationship between lower eGFR and increasing CAC. In unadjusted models, ORs increased from 1.68 (95% CI, 1.23–2.31) for eGFR from 50–59 to 2.82 (95% CI, 2.06–3.85) for eGFR of <30. Multivariable adjustment only partially attenuated the results (OR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.07–2.20) for eGFR<30.
Use of eGFR rather than measured GFR.
We demonstrated a graded relationship between severity of CKD and CAC, independent of traditional risk factors. These findings supports recent guidelines that state that if vascular calcification is present, it should be considered as a complementary component to be included in the decision making required for individualizing treatment of CKD.
Susceptibility to testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT) has a significant heritable component, and genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified association with variants in several genes, including KITLG, SPRY4, BAK1, TERT, DMRT1 and ATF7IP. In our GWAS, we genotyped 349 TGCT cases and 919 controls and replicated top hits in an independent set of 439 cases and 960 controls in an attempt to find novel TGCT susceptibility loci. We identified a second marker (rs7040024) in the doublesex and mab-3-related transcription factor 1 (DMRT1) gene that is independent of the previously described risk allele (rs755383) at this locus. In combined analysis that mutually conditions on both DMRT1 single nucleotide polymorphism markers, TGCT cases had elevated odds of carriage of the rs7040024 major A allele [per-allele odds ratio (OR) = 1.48, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.23, 1.78; P = 2.52 × 10−5] compared with controls, while the association with rs755383 persisted (per allele OR = 1.26, 95% CI 1.08, 1.47, P = 0.0036). In similar analyses, the association of rs7040024 among men with seminomatous tumors did not differ from that among men with non-seminomatous tumors. In combination with KITLG, the strongest TGCT susceptibility locus found to date, men with TGCT had greatly elevated odds (OR = 14.1, 95% CI 5.12, 38.6; P = 2.98 × 10−7) of being double homozygotes for the risk (major) alleles at DMRT (rs7040024) and KITLG (rs4474514) when compared with men without TGCT. Our findings continue to corroborate that genes influencing male germ cell development and differentiation have emerged as the major players in inherited TGCT susceptibility.
macrophage cholesterol efflux; polyphenols; phenolic acids; coffee; cardiovascular disease
We previously reported that a systemic liver X receptor (LXR) agonist promoted macrophage reverse cholesterol transport (mRCT) in vivo. Because LXRs are expressed in multiple tissues involved in RCT (macrophages, liver, intestine), we analyzed the effect of tissue-specific LXR agonism on mRCT.
Methods and Results
In initial studies the systemic LXR agonist GW3965 failed to promote mRCT in a setting where LXR was expressed in macrophages but not in liver or intestine. To evaluate the effect of LXR activation specifically in small intestine on mRCT, wild-type mice were treated with either intestinal-specific LXR agonist (GW6340) or systemic LXR agonist (GW3965). Both GW3965 and GW6340 significantly promoted excretion of [3H]-sterol in feces by 162% and 52%, respectively. To evaluate the requirement for macrophage LXR activation, we assessed the ability of GW3965 to promote mRCT in wild-type mice using primary macrophages deficient in LXRα/β versus wild-type macrophages. While GW3965 treatment promoted fecal excretion compared with vehicle, its overall ability to promote mRCT was significantly attenuated using LXRα/β KO macrophages.
We demonstrate that intestinal-specific LXR agonism promotes macrophage RCT in vivo, and macrophage LXR itself plays an important, but not predominant, role in promoting RCT in response to an LXR agonist.
The field of vascular molecular imaging is searching for the `holy grail' of an imaging technique that will quantitatively and reliably assess vulnerable coronary plaques. Fluorescence imaging with indocyanine green specifically identifies lipid-rich plaques in rabbits and in human plaques and represents a promising, though invasive, approach.
Background: Increased consumption of nuts has been advocated because of their health benefits, but the role of nuts in the treatment of obesity is unclear given their high energy density.
Objective: This study was designed to evaluate the effects of a hypocaloric, almond-enriched diet (AED) compared with a hypocaloric nut-free diet (NFD) on body weight and cardiovascular disease risk factors in the context of an 18-mo behavioral weight-management program.
Design: Overweight and obese individuals [n = 123; age = 46.8 y, BMI (in kg/m2) = 34.0] were randomly assigned to consume an AED or NFD and instructed in traditional behavioral methods of weight control. Anthropometric and metabolic measurements were made at baseline, 6 mo, and 18 mo.
Results: Those in the AED group lost slightly but significantly less weight than did those in the NFD group at 6 mo (−5.5 compared with −7.4 kg; P = 0.04), but there were no differences at 18 mo. No significant differences in body composition were found between the groups at 6 or 18 mo. The AED, compared with the NFD, was associated with greater reductions in total cholesterol (P = 0.03), total:HDL cholesterol (P = 0.02), and triglycerides (P = 0.048) at 6 mo, and no differences were observed between the groups at 18 mo.
Conclusions: The AED and NFD groups experienced clinically significant and comparable weight loss at 18 mo. Despite smaller weight loss in the AED group at 6 mo, the AED group experienced greater improvements in lipid profiles. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00194428.
Apolipoprotein (apoE) E is a multifunctional protein that plays a critical role in atherogenesis, in part by regulating the intimal proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells. Recently, a novel cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 pathway was shown to contribute to the anti-proliferative action of human apoE3 in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC). Here, we provide insight into the structure-function properties by which apoE mediates these effects. ApoE3 is most effective in promoting COX-2 expression as a lipid-free protein and is less active after lipidation. Alterations in the stability of the helix-bundle N-terminal domain of apoE that contains the binding site for the low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and heparin do not affect the up-regulation of the COX-2 pathway. In addition, the apoE2, 3, and 4 isoforms are all capable of up-regulating the COX-2 pathway. Finally, the effect of apoE on COX-2 was found to be independent of expression on the VSMC surface of the LDL receptor and heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPG). In summary, our data indicates that apoE, particularly in the lipid-free state, can up-regulate COX-2 in murine vascular smooth muscle cells apparently independently of binding to the LDLR, LRP or HSPG.
apolipoprotein E; cyclooxygenase-2; LDL receptor; vascular smooth muscle cell; heparan sulfate proteoglycan
Despite numerous technological and pharmacological advances and more detailed knowledge of molecular etiologies, cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide claiming over 17 million lives a year. Abnormalities in the synthesis, processing and catabolism of lipoprotein particles can result in severe hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia or low HDL-C. Although a plethora of antidyslipidemic pharmacological agents are available, these drugs are relatively ineffective in many patients with Mendelian lipid disorders, indicating the need for new and more effective interventions. In vivo somatic gene therapy is one such intervention. This article summarizes current strategies being pursued for the development of clinical gene therapy for dyslipidemias that cannot effectively be treated with existing drugs.
dyslipidemia; gene therapy; lipoprotein
The role of hepatic ATP-binding cassette transporter 1 (ABCA1) in maintaining plasma high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels is well established, but its role in reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) is unclear. Probucol is a compound that reduces HDL-C levels but also reduces atherosclerosis in animal models and xanthomas in humans. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that probucol inhibits hepatic ABCA1 activity, thereby reducing HDL-C levels but promoting RCT from macrophages.
Methods and Results
Wild-type (WT) C57BL/6 mice and scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI) knockout mice were fed a chow diet containing 0.5% probucol or normal chow for 2 weeks. In WT mice, probucol, despite decreasing HDL-C by >80%, effectively maintained macrophage RCT. In SR-BI knockout mice, probucol also substantially reduced HDL-C but significantly increased macrophage RCT. Furthermore, probucol significantly enhanced the excretion of HDL-derived cholesterol into feces in both WT and SR-BI knockout mice. Probucol inhibited ABCA1-dependent cholesterol efflux from mouse primary hepatocytes, and this effect was shown to be responsible for the effect of probucol on increasing the fecal excretion of HDL-derived cholesterol in vivo.
We demonstrate that pharmacological inhibition of hepatic ABCA1 activity with probucol reduced HDL-C levels but promoted RCT through diversion of HDL-derived cholesterol from efflux back into plasma instead to excretion in the bile. These results explain the beneficial effects of probucol on atherosclerosis and xanthomas despite its HDL-lowering effects and suggest that inactivation of hepatic ABCA1 leads to increased RCT despite reducing plasma HDL-C levels.
atherosclerosis; cholesterol; HDL; lipids; lipoproteins; pharmacology
Recent GWAS have identified SNPs at a human chromosom1 locus associated with coronary artery disease risk and LDL cholesterol levels. The SNPs are also associated with altered expression of hepatic sortilin-1 (SORT1), which encodes a protein thought to be involved in apoB trafficking and degradation. Here, we investigated the regulation of Sort1 expression in mouse models of obesity. Sort1 expression was markedly repressed in both genetic (ob/ob) and high-fat diet models of obesity; restoration of hepatic sortilin-1 levels resulted in reduced triglyceride and apoB secretion. Mouse models of obesity also exhibit increased hepatic activity of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) and ER stress, and we found that administration of the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin to ob/ob mice reduced ER stress and increased hepatic sortilin-1 levels. Conversely, genetically increased hepatic mTORC1 activity was associated with repressed Sort1 and increased apoB secretion. Treating WT mice with the ER stressor tunicamycin led to marked repression of hepatic sortilin-1 expression, while administration of the chemical chaperone PBA to ob/ob mice led to amelioration of ER stress, increased sortilin-1 expression, and reduced apoB and triglyceride secretion. Moreover, the ER stress target Atf3 acted at the SORT1 promoter region as a transcriptional repressor, whereas knockdown of Atf3 mRNA in ob/ob mice led to increased hepatic sortilin-1 levels and decreased apoB and triglyceride secretion. Thus, in mouse models of obesity, induction of mTORC1 and ER stress led to repression of hepatic Sort1 and increased VLDL secretion via Atf3. This pathway may contribute to dyslipidemia in metabolic disease.
Despite a robust inverse association between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, the development of new therapies based on pharmacologic enhancement of HDL metabolism has proven challenging. Emerging evidence suggests that static measurement of HDL levels has inherent limitations as a surrogate for overall HDL functionality, particularly with regard to the rate of flux through the macrophage reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) pathway. Recent research has provided important insight into the molecular underpinnings of RCT, the process by which excess cellular cholesterol is effluxed from peripheral tissues and returned to the liver for ultimate intestinal excretion. This review discusses the critical importance and current strategies for quantifying RCT flux. It also highlights therapeutic strategies for augmenting macrophage RCT via three conceptual approaches: 1) improved efflux of cellular cholesterol via targeting the macrophage; 2) enhanced cholesterol efflux acceptor functionality of circulating HDL; and 3) increased hepatic uptake and biliary/intestinal excretion.
Reverse cholesterol transport; High-density lipoprotein; Lipid metabolism
The burden of atherothrombotic cardiovascular disease remains high despite currently available optimum medical therapy. To address this substantial residual risk, the development of novel therapies that attempt to harness the atheroprotective functions of HDL is a major goal. These functions include the critical role of HDL in reverse cholesterol transport, and its anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, and antioxidant activities. Discoveries in the past decade have shed light on the complex metabolic and antiatherosclerotic pathways of HDL. These insights have fueled the development of HDL-targeted drugs, which can be classified among four different therapeutic approaches: directly augmenting apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I) levels, such as with apo A-I infusions and upregulators of endogenous apo A-I production; indirectly augmenting apo A-I and HDL-cholesterol levels, such as through inhibition of cholesteryl ester transfer protein or endothelial lipase, or through activation of the high-affinity niacin receptor GPR109A; mimicking the functionality of apo A-I with apo A-I mimetic peptides; and enhancing steps in the reverse cholesterol transport pathway, such as via activation of the liver X receptor or of lecithin–cholesterol acyltransferase.
PPARγ agonists, used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, can raise HDL-cholesterol, therefore could potentially stimulate macrophage-to-feces reverse cholesterol transport (RCT). We aimed to test whether PPARγ activation promotes macrophage RCT in vivo. Macrophage RCT was assessed in mice using cholesterol loaded/3H-cholesterol labeled macrophages. PPARγ agonist GW7845 (20 mg/kg/day) did not change 3H-tracer plasma appearance, but surprisingly decreased fecal 3H-free sterol excretion by 43% (P < 0.01) over 48 h. Total free cholesterol efflux from macrophages to serum (collected from control and GW7845 groups) was not different, although ABCA1-mediated efflux was significantly higher with GW7845. To determine the effect of PPARγ activation on HDL cholesterol uptake by different tissues, the metabolic fate of HDL labeled with 3H-cholesteryl ether (CE) was also measured. We observed two-fold increase in HDL derived 3H-CE uptake by adipose tissue (P < 0.005) with concomitant 22% decrease in HDL derived 3H-CE uptake by the liver (P < 0.05) in GW7845 treated wild type mice. This was associated with a significant increase in SR-BI protein expression in adipose tissue, but not liver. The same experiment in SR-BI knockout mice, showed no difference in HDL derived 3H-CE uptake by adipose tissue or liver. In conclusion, PPARγ activation decreases the fecal excretion of macrophage derived cholesterol in mice. This is not due to inhibition of cholesterol efflux from macrophages, but rather involves redirection of effluxed cholesterol from liver towards adipose tissue uptake via SR-BI. This represents a novel mechanism for regulation of RCT and may extend the therapeutic implications of these ligands.
PPARγ; HDL; Reverse cholesterol transport; Adipose tissue; SR-BI
A number of therapeutic strategies targeting high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reverse cholesterol transport are being developed to halt the progression of atherosclerosis or even induce regression. However, circulating HDL cholesterol levels alone represent an inadequate measure of therapeutic efficacy. Evaluation of the potential effects of HDL-targeted interventions on atherosclerosis requires reliable assays of HDL function and surrogate markers of efficacy. Promotion of macrophage cholesterol efflux and reverse cholesterol transport is thought to be one of the most important mechanisms by which HDL protects against atherosclerosis, and methods to assess this pathway in vivo are being developed. Indexes of monocyte chemotaxis, endothelial inflammation, oxidation, nitric oxide production, and thrombosis reveal other dimensions of HDL functionality. Robust, reproducible assays that can be performed widely are needed to move this field forward and permit effective assessment of the therapeutic potential of HDL-targeted therapies.
Fish oil (FO), and specifically omega 3 fatty acids, has favorable effects on cardiovascular outcomes. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of FO on the process of macrophage reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) in an in vivo mouse model.
Methods and Results
C57BL/6J mice were fed a FO diet, whereas control mice were fed diets containing alternative sources of fats, soybean oil (SO), and coconut oil (CO) for 4 weeks. Macrophage RCT was assessed by injecting [3H]cholesterol-labeled J774 macrophages intraperitoneally into mice. After 48 hours, tissues were harvested and feces were collected. An increase in the excretion of macrophage-derived [3H]-tracer recovered in fecal neutral sterols for FO-fed mice was observed (273% versus SO and 182% versus CO). FO also decreased [3H]-tracer in hepatic cholesteryl ester compared to SO and CO by 76% and 56%, respectively. To specifically determine the effect of FO on the fate of HDL-derived cholesterol, mice fed FO or SO diets were injected with HDL labeled with [3H]cholesteryl oleate, and the disappearance of [3H]-tracer from blood and its excretion in feces was measured. There was no significant difference in the fractional catabolic rate of [3H]cholesteryl oleate-HDL between the 2 groups. However, there was a 242% increase in the excretion of HDL-derived [3H]-tracer recovered in fecal neutral sterols in FO-fed mice, concordant with significantly increased expression of hepatic Abcg5 and Abcg8 mRNA.
As measured by this tracer-based assay, FO promoted reverse cholesterol transport, primarily by enhancement of the hepatic excretion of macrophage-derived and HDL-derived cholesterol.
HDL; atherosclerosis; nutrition
Lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) catalyzes the formation of plasma cholesteryl ester, plays a key role in high density lipoprotein (HDL) metabolism, and has been believed to be critical in the process of reverse cholesterol transport (RCT).
Method and Results
The role of LCAT in RCT from macrophages was quantitated using a validated assay involving intraperitoneal injection in mice of 3H-cholesterol-labeled J774 macrophages and monitoring appearance of tracer in plasma, liver, bile and feces. Human LCAT overexpression in human apoA-I transgenic mice substantially increased plasma HDL-C levels, but, surprisingly, did not increase macrophage RCT. Even in the setting of co-expression of SR-BI or CETP, both of which promoted the transfer of LCAT-derived HDL-CE to the liver, LCAT overexpression still had no effect on RCT. Serum from LCAT overexpressing mice had reduced ability to promote cholesterol efflux from macrophages ex vivo via ABCA1. To determine the effect of LCAT deficiency on macrophage RCT, LCAT-/- and LCAT+/- mice were compared to wild-type mice. Despite extremely low plasma levels of HDL-C, LCAT deficient mice had only a 50% reduction in RCT. LCAT+/- mice had normal RCT despite a significant reduction in HDL-C. Serum from LCAT deficient mice had increased ability to promote ABCA1-mediated cholesterol efflux from macrophages ex vivo.
These results demonstrate that LCAT overexpression does not promote an increased rate of macrophage RCT. While LCAT activity does become rate-limiting in the context of complete LCAT deficiency, RCT is reduced by only 50% even in the absence of LCAT. These data suggest that macrophage RCT may not be as dependent on LCAT activity as has been previously believed.
apolipoproteins; atherosclerosis; lipids; metabolism