Loss of ABCG1 influences regulatory T cell differentiation and atherosclerosis

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Abstract

ATP-binding cassette transporter G1 (ABCG1) promotes cholesterol accumulation and alters T cell homeostasis, which may contribute to progression of atherosclerosis. Here, we investigated how the selective loss of ABCG1 in T cells impacts atherosclerosis in LDL receptor–deficient (LDLR-deficient) mice, a model of the disease. In LDLR-deficient mice fed a high-cholesterol diet, T cell–specific ABCG1 deficiency protected against atherosclerotic lesions. Furthermore, T cell–specific ABCG1 deficiency led to a 30% increase in Treg percentages in aorta and aorta-draining lymph nodes (LNs) of these mice compared with animals with only LDLR deficiency. When Abcg1 was selectively deleted in Tregs of LDLR-deficient mice, we observed a 30% increase in Treg percentages in aorta and aorta-draining LNs and reduced atherosclerosis. In the absence of ABCG1, intracellular cholesterol accumulation led to downregulation of the mTOR pathway, which increased the differentiation of naive CD4 T cells into Tregs. The increase in Tregs resulted in reduced T cell activation and increased IL-10 production by T cells. Last, we found that higher ABCG1 expression in Tregs was associated with a higher frequency of these cells in human blood samples. Our study indicates that ABCG1 regulates T cell differentiation into Tregs, highlighting a pathway by which cholesterol accumulation can influence T cell homeostasis in atherosclerosis.

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