Inhibition of apolipoprotein B synthesis stimulates endoplasmic reticulum autophagy that prevents steatosis

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Abstract

Inhibition of VLDL secretion reduces plasma levels of atherogenic apolipoprotein B (apoB) lipoproteins but can also cause hepatic steatosis. Approaches targeting apoB synthesis, which lies upstream of VLDL secretion, have potential to effectively reduce dyslipidemia but can also lead to hepatic accumulation of unsecreted triglycerides (TG). Here, we found that treating mice with apoB antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) for 6 weeks decreased VLDL secretion and plasma cholesterol without causing steatosis. The absence of steatosis was linked to an increase in ER stress in the first 3 weeks of ASO treatment, followed by development of ER autophagy at the end of 6 weeks of treatment. The latter resulted in increased fatty acid (FA) oxidation that was inhibited by both chloroquine and 3-methyl adenine, consistent with trafficking of ER TG through the autophagic pathway before oxidation. These findings support the concept that inhibition of apoB synthesis traps lipids that have been transferred to the ER by microsomal TG transfer protein (MTP), inducing ER stress. ER stress then triggers ER autophagy and subsequent lysosomal lipolysis of TG, followed by mitochondrial oxidation of released FA, leading to prevention of steatosis. The identification of this pathway indicates that inhibition of VLDL secretion remains a viable target for therapies aiming to reduce circulating levels of atherogenic apoB lipoproteins.

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