PloS one

Vasoprotective effects of urocortin 1 against atherosclerosis in vitro and in vivo.

PMID 25462164


Atherosclerosis is the complex lesion that consists of endothelial inflammation, macrophage foam cell formation, vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) migration and proliferation, and extracellular matrix production. Human urocortin 1 (Ucn1), a 40-amino acid peptide member of the corticotrophin-releasing factor/urotensin I family, has potent cardiovascular protective effects. This peptide induces potent and long-lasting hypotension and coronary vasodilation. However, the relationship of Ucn1 with atherosclerosis remains unclear. The present study was performed to clarify the effects of Ucn1 on atherosclerosis. We assessed the effects of Ucn1 on the inflammatory response and proliferation of human endothelial cells (ECs), human macrophage foam cell formation, migration and proliferation of human VSMCs, extracellular matrix expression in VSMCs, and the development of atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient (Apoe-/-) mice. Ucn1 significantly suppressed cell proliferation without inducing apoptosis, and lipopolysaccharide-induced up-regulation of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 in human ECs. Ucn1 significantly reduced oxidized low-density lipoprotein-induced foam cell formation with a significant down-regulation of CD36 and acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase 1 in human monocyte-derived macrophages. Ucn1 significantly suppressed the migration and proliferation of human VSMCs and increased the activities of matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP2) and MMP9 in human VSMCs. Intraperitoneal injection of Ucn1 into Apoe-/- mice for 4 weeks significantly retarded the development of aortic atherosclerotic lesions. This study provided the first evidence that Ucn1 prevents the development of atherosclerosis by suppressing EC inflammatory response and proliferation, macrophage foam cell formation, and VSMC migration and proliferation. Thus, Ucn1 could serve as a novel therapeutic target for atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases.