PPARα, β/δ, and γ regulate genes involved in the control of lipid metabolism and inflammation and are expressed in all major cell types of atherosclerotic lesions. In vitro studies have suggested that PPARs exert antiatherogenic effects by inhibiting the expression of proinflammatory genes and enhancing cholesterol efflux via activation of the liver X receptor–ABCA1 (LXR-ABCA1) pathway. To investigate the potential importance of these activities in vivo, we performed a systematic analysis of the effects of PPARα, β, and γ agonists on foam-cell formation and atherosclerosis in male LDL receptor–deficient (LDLR–/–) mice. Like the PPARγ agonist, a PPARα-specific agonist strongly inhibited atherosclerosis, whereas a PPARβ-specific agonist failed to inhibit lesion formation. In concert with their effects on atherosclerosis, PPARα and PPARγ agonists, but not the PPARβ agonist, inhibited the formation of macrophage foam cells in the peritoneal cavity. Unexpectedly, PPARα and PPARγ agonists inhibited foam-cell formation in vivo through distinct ABCA1-independent pathways. While inhibition of foam-cell formation by PPARα required LXRs, activation of PPARγ reduced cholesterol esterification, induced expression of ABCG1, and stimulated HDL-dependent cholesterol efflux in an LXR-independent manner. In concert, these findings reveal receptor-specific mechanisms by which PPARs influence macrophage cholesterol homeostasis. In the future, these mechanisms may be exploited pharmacologically to inhibit the development of atherosclerosis.
Andrew C. Li, Christoph J. Binder, Alejandra Gutierrez, Kathleen K. Brown, Christine R. Plotkin, Jennifer W. Pattison, Annabel F. Valledor, Roger A. Davis, Timothy M. Willson, Joseph L. Witztum, Wulf Palinski, Christopher K. Glass