Itaconate has emerged as a critical immunoregulatory metabolite. Here, we examined the therapeutic potential of itaconate in atherosclerosis. We found that both itaconate and the enzyme that synthesizes it, aconitate decarboxylase 1 (Acod1, also known as immune-responsive gene 1 [IRG1]), are upregulated during atherogenesis in mice. Deletion of Acod1 in myeloid cells exacerbated inflammation and atherosclerosis in vivo and resulted in an elevated frequency of a specific subset of M1-polarized proinflammatory macrophages in the atherosclerotic aorta. Importantly, Acod1 levels were inversely correlated with clinical occlusion in atherosclerotic human aorta specimens. Treating mice with the itaconate derivative 4-octyl itaconate attenuated inflammation and atherosclerosis induced by high cholesterol. Mechanistically, we found that the antioxidant transcription factor, nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2), was required for itaconate to suppress macrophage activation induced by oxidized lipids in vitro and to decrease atherosclerotic lesion areas in vivo. Overall, our work shows that itaconate suppresses atherogenesis by inducing Nrf2-dependent inhibition of proinflammatory responses in macrophages. Activation of the itaconate pathway may represent an important approach to treat atherosclerosis.
Jianrui Song, Yanling Zhang, Ryan A. Frieler, Anthony Andren, Sherri Wood, Daniel J. Tyrrell, Peter Sajjakulnukit, Jane C. Deng, Costas A. Lyssiotis, Richard M. Mortensen, Morgan Salmon, Daniel R. Goldstein