Hypercholesterolemia is a central pathogenic factor of endothelial dysfunction caused in part by an impairment of endothelial nitric oxide (NO) production through mechanisms that remain poorly characterized. The activity of the endothelial isoform of NO synthase (eNOS) was recently shown to be modulated by its reciprocal interactions with the stimulatory Ca2+–calmodulin complex and the inhibitory protein caveolin. We examined whether hypercholesterolemia may reduce NO production through alteration of this regulatory equilibrium. Bovine aortic endothelial cells were cultured in the presence of serum obtained from normocholesterolemic (NC) or hypercholesterolemic (HC) human volunteers. Exposure of endothelial cells to the HC serum upregulated caveolin abundance without any measurable effect on eNOS protein levels. This effect of HC serum was associated with an impairment of basal NO release paralleled by an increase in inhibitory caveolin–eNOS complex formation. Similar treatment with HC serum significantly attenuated the NO production stimulated by the calcium ionophore A23187. Accordingly, higher calmodulin levels were required to disrupt the enhanced caveolin–eNOS heterocomplex from HC serum–treated cells. Finally, cell exposure to the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) fraction alone dose-dependently reproduced the inhibition of basal and stimulated NO release, as well as the upregulation of caveolin expression and its heterocomplex formation with eNOS, which were unaffected by cotreatment with antioxidants. Together, our data establish a new mechanism for the cholesterol-induced impairment of NO production through the modulation of caveolin abundance in endothelial cells, a mechanism that may participate in the pathogenesis of endothelial dysfunction and the proatherogenic effects of hypercholesterolemia.
Olivier Feron, Chantal Dessy, Stephane Moniotte, Jean-Pierre Desager, Jean-Luc Balligand