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Circulation Research

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 105  |  Issue: 5  |  Page No.: 500 - 510

Preventive Effects of Heregulin-{beta}1 on Macrophage Foam Cell Formation and Atherosclerosis

G Xu, T Watanabe, Y Iso, S Koba, T Sakai, M Nagashima, S Arita, S Hongo, H Ota, Y Kobayashi, A Miyazaki and T. Hirano

Abstract

Rationale: Human heregulins, neuregulin-1 type I polypeptides that activate proliferation, differentiation, and survival of glial cells, neurons, and myocytes, are expressed in macrophage foam cells within human coronary atherosclerotic lesions. Macrophage foam cell formation, characterized by cholesterol ester accumulation, is modulated by scavenger receptor class A (SR-A), acyl-coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT)1, and ATP-binding cassette transporter (ABC)A1.

Objective: The present study clarified the roles of heregulins in macrophage foam cell formation and atherosclerosis.

Methods and Results: Plasma heregulin-β1 levels were significantly decreased in 31 patients with acute coronary syndrome and 33 patients with effort angina pectoris compared with 34 patients with mild hypertension and 40 healthy volunteers (1.3±0.3, 2.0±0.4 versus 7.6±1.4, 8.2±1.2 ng/mL; P<0.01). Among all patients with acute coronary syndrome and effort angina pectoris, plasma heregulin-β1 levels were further decreased in accordance with the severity of coronary artery lesions. Expression of heregulin-β1 was observed at trace levels in intracoronary atherothrombosis obtained by aspiration thrombectomy from acute coronary syndrome patients. Heregulin-β1, but not heregulin-, significantly reduced acetylated low-density lipoprotein–induced cholesterol ester accumulation in primary cultured human monocyte-derived macrophages by reducing SR-A and ACAT1 expression and by increasing ABCA1 expression at both mRNA and protein levels. Heregulin-β1 significantly decreased endocytic uptake of [125I]acetylated low-density lipoprotein and ACAT activity, and increased cholesterol efflux to apolipoprotein (Apo)A-I from human macrophages. Chronic infusion of heregulin-β1 into ApoE–/– mice significantly suppressed the development of atherosclerotic lesions.

Conclusions: This study provided the first evidence that heregulin-β1 inhibits atherogenesis and suppresses macrophage foam cell formation via SR-A and ACAT1 downregulation and ABCA1 upregulation.

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