ACAT1 (Acyl-CoA cholesterol acyltransferase 1) esterifies cellular free cholesterol, thereby converting macrophages to cholesteryl ester-laden foam cells in atherosclerotic lesions and cutaneous xanthoma. Paradoxically, however, loss of ACAT1 in bone marrow causes the aggravation of atherosclerosis and the development of severe cutaneous xanthoma in hyperlipidemic mice. Recently, it has been reported that cholesterol crystals activate NLRP3 (NACHT, LRR [leucine-rich repeats], and PYD [pyrin domain] domain-containing protein 3) inflammasomes, thereby contributing to the development of atherosclerosis. The present study aimed to clarify the role of NLRP3 inflammasomes in the worsening of atherosclerosis and cutaneous xanthoma induced by ACAT1 deficiency.Approach and Results—
Ldlr-null mice were transplanted with bone marrow from WT (wild type) mice and mice lacking ACAT1, NLRP3, or both. After the 4 types of mice were fed high-cholesterol diets, we compared their atherosclerosis and skin lesions. The mice transplanted with Acat1-null bone marrow developed severe cutaneous xanthoma, which was filled with numerous macrophages and cholesterol clefts and had markedly increased expression of inflammatory cytokines, and increased atherosclerosis. Loss of NLRP3 completely reversed the cutaneous xanthoma, whereas it improved the atherosclerosis only partially. Acat1-null peritoneal macrophages showed enhanced expression of CHOP (C/EBP [CCAAT/enhancer binding protein] homologous protein) and TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-α) but no evidence of inflammasome activation, after treatment with acetylated LDL (low-density lipoprotein).Conclusions—
Elimination of ACAT1 in bone marrow-derived cells aggravates cutaneous xanthoma and atherosclerosis. The development of cutaneous xanthoma is induced mainly via the NLRP3 inflammasome activation.