A novel urotensin II receptor antagonist, KR-36676, prevents ABCA1 repression via ERK/IL-1β pathway

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Urotensin II (U-II), the most potent vasoconstrictor peptide known to date, is expressed at a high level in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) and endothelial cells, whereas its receptor, urotensin (UT) receptor, is abundant in monocytes and macrophages of atherosclerotic lesions. U-II is highly present in the coronary arteries of the atherosclerotic patients compared to normal subjects. Recently, U-II was shown to down-regulate ATP binding cassette transporter-A1 (ABCA1) expression, which is responsible for reverse cholesterol transport in macrophages of atherosclerotic lesions. However, the mechanism of this observation was not clearly elucidated. Previous studies also revealed that the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β) repressed ABCA1 expression. To clarify the signaling pathway involved with respect to U-II-induced ABCA1 down-regulation, we investigated whether IL-1ß was involved. Our results provided that U-II repressed ABCA1 through an ERK/ IL-1ß pathway. We further demonstrated that U-II receptor antagonist KR-36676 decreased IL-1ß production and significantly led to a recovery of ABCA1 expression at both mRNA and protein levels. In previous investigations, U-II receptor antagonists have been shown to protect atherosclerosis in cell and animal models. Our results imply that U-II receptor antagonist KR-36676 might be a potent candidate for treating atherosclerosis, and leading to a recovery of ABCA1 expression, affected by the ERK/IL-1ß pathway.

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