Epac1 (Exchange Protein Directly Activated by cAMP 1) Upregulates LOX-1 (Oxidized Low-Density Lipoprotein Receptor 1) to Promote Foam Cell Formation and Atherosclerosis Development

William G. Robichaux, Fang C. Mei, Wenli Yang, Hui Wang, Hua Sun, Zhen Zhou, Dianna M. Milewicz, Ba Bie Teng, Xiaodong Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: The cAMP second messenger system, a major stress-response pathway, plays essential roles in normal cardiovascular functions and in pathogenesis of heart diseases. Here, we test the hypothesis that the Epac1 (exchange protein directly activated by cAMP 1) acts as a major downstream effector of cAMP signaling to promote atherogenesis and represents a novel therapeutic target. Approach and Results: To ascertain Epac1's function in atherosclerosis development, a triple knockout mouse model (LTe) was generated by crossing Epac1-/-mice with atherosclerosis-prone LDb mice lacking both Ldlr and Apobec1. Deletion of Epac1 led to a significant reduction of atherosclerotic lesion formation as measured by postmortem staining, accompanied by attenuated macrophage/foam cell infiltrations within atherosclerotic plaques as determined by immunofluorescence staining in LTe animals compared with LDb littermates. Primary bone marrow-derived macrophages were isolated from Epac1-null and wild-type mice to investigate the role of Epac1 in lipid uptake and foam cell formation. ox-LDLs (oxidized low-density lipoproteins) stimulation of bone marrow-derived macrophages led to elevated intracellular cAMP and Epac1 levels, whereas an Epac-specific agonist, increased lipid accumulation in wild-type, but not Epac1-null, bone marrow-derived macrophages. Mechanistically, Epac1 acts through PKC (protein kinase C) to upregulate LOX-1 (ox-LDL receptor 1), a major scavenger receptor for ox-LDL uptake, exerting a feedforward mechanism with ox-LDL to increase lipid uptake and propel foam cell formation and atherogenesis. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates a fundamental role of cAMP/Epac1 signaling in vascular remodeling by promoting ox-LDL uptake and foam cell formation during atherosclerosis lesion development. Therefore, Epac1 represents a promising, unexplored therapeutic target for atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E322-E335
JournalArteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology
Volume40
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

Keywords

  • atherogenesis
  • atherosclerosis
  • foam cells
  • mice
  • second messenger system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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