Acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT) mediates cellular cholesterol esterification. In atherosclerotic plaque macrophages, ACAT promotes cholesteryl ester accumulation, resulting in foam cell formation and atherosclerosis progression. Its complete inactivation in mice, however, showed toxic effects because of an excess of free cholesterol (FC) in macrophages, which can cause endoplasmic reticulum stress, cholesterol crystal formation, and inflammasome activation. Our previous studies showed that long-term partial ACAT inhibition, achieved by dietary supplementation with Fujirebio F1394, delays atherosclerosis progression in apoprotein E–deficient (Apoe2/2) mice by reducing plaque foam cell formation without inflammatory or toxic effects. Here, we determined whether short-term partial inhibition of ACAT, in combination with an enhanced systemic FC acceptor capacity, has synergistic benefits. Thus, we crossbred Apoe2/2 with human apoprotein A1–transgenic (APOA1tg/tg) mice, which have elevated cholesterol-effluxing high-density lipoprotein particles, and subjected Apoe2/2 and APOA1tg/tg/Apoe2/2 mice to an atherogenic diet to develop advanced plaques. Then mice were either euthanized (baseline) or fed purified standard diet with or without F1394 for 4 more weeks. Plaques of APOA1tg/tg/Apoe2/2 mice fed F1394 showed a 60% reduction of macrophages accompanied by multiple other benefits, such as reduced inflammation and favorable changes in extracellular composition, in comparison with Apoe2/2 baseline mice. In addition, there was no accumulation of cholesterol crystals or signs of toxicity. Overall, these results show that short-term partial ACAT inhibition, coupled to increased cholesterol efflux capacity, favorably remodels atherosclerosis lesions, supporting the potential of these combined therapies in the treatment of advanced atherosclerosis. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Short-term pharmacological inhibition of acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase–mediated cholesterol esterification, in combination with increased free cholesterol efflux acceptors, has positive effects in mice by 1) reducing the inflammatory state of the plaque macrophages and 2) favoring compositional changes associated with plaque stabilization. These effects occur without toxicity, showing the potential of these combined therapies in the treatment of advanced atherosclerosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine