Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the most common cause of mortality and morbidity in the Western world. Cholesterol accumulation in arterial macrophages and inflammation of the artery wall both contribute to development of CVD. There is an inverse relationship between plasma high-density (HDL) levels and cardiovascular risk, implying that factors associated with HDL metabolism are cardioprotective. HDL protects against CVD by several mechanisms that remove cholesterol from arterial cells and suppress inflammation. A major cardioprotective factor associated with HDL metabolism is ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1), a cell membrane protein that exports cholesterol and phospholipids from cells to lipid-depleted HDL apolipoproteins, such as apoA-I. We found that ABCA1 also functions as an anti-inflammatory signaling receptor through activation of a JAK2/STAT3 pathway, which is independent of cholesterol export activity. Thus, macrophage ABCA1 provides a direct biochemical link between the cardioprotective effects of reverse cholesterol transport and suppressed inflammation. These observations indicate that ABCA1 is an attractive therapeutic target for treating the two major underlying mechanisms that cause CVD. The goal of this project is to determine the cellular processes involved in the cholesterol export and anti-inflammatory activities of ABCA1 and to assess their cardioprotective roles in vivo. We propose to use mutagenesis, biochemical, and mass spectrometric techniques to evaluate the effects of apolipoprotein-ABCA1 interactions on cholesterol export and inflammatory cytokine production and to characterize cellular mechanisms involved. We also propose to use atherosclerosis-susceptible mouse models to determine how these anti-inflammatory and cholesterol export functions of ABCA1 contribute to atherosclerosis in whole animals. This information will define possible sites of impairment of these pathways that may be clinically relevant and uncover potential targets for therapeutic interventions for preventing CVD.
HDL protects against heart disease by removing artery-blocking cholesterol from arterial cells and inhibiting inflammation. A cell protein called ABCA1 can perform both of these heart-protecting functions. This research will investigate the cell pathways involved in the cholesterol removal and anti-inflammatory actions of ABCA1 and determine if these pathways protect against heart disease in animals.
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