The Journal of nutritional biochemistry

Atherogenicity of amino acids in the lipid-laden macrophage model system in vitro and in atherosclerotic mice: a key role for triglyceride metabolism.

PMID 28431321


Atherosclerosis-related research has focused mainly on the effects of lipids on macrophage foam cell formation and atherogenesis, whereas the role of amino acids (AAs) was understudied. The current study aimed to identify anti- or pro-atherogenic AA in the macrophage model system and to elucidate the underlying metabolic and molecular mechanisms. J774A.1 cultured macrophages were treated with increasing concentrations of each 1 of the 20 AAs. Macrophage atherogenicity was assessed in terms of cellular toxicity, generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cellular cholesterol or triglyceride content. At nontoxic concentrations (up to 1 mM), modest effects on ROS generation or cholesterol content were noted, but six specific AAs significantly affected macrophage triglyceride content. Glycine, cysteine, alanine and leucine significantly decreased macrophage triglyceride content (by 24%-38%), through attenuated uptake of triglyceride-rich very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) by macrophages. In contrast, glutamate and glutamine caused a marked triglyceride accumulation in macrophages (by 107% and 129%, respectively), via a diacylglycerol acyltransferase-1 (DGAT1)-dependent increase in triglyceride biosynthesis rate with a concurrent maturation of the sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1 (SREBP1). Supplementation of apolipoprotein E-deficient (apoE(-/-)) mice with glycine for 40 days significantly decreased the triglyceride levels in serum and in peritoneal macrophages (MPMs) isolated from the mice (by 19%). In contrast, glutamine supplementation significantly increased MPM ROS generation and the accumulation of cholesterol and that of triglycerides (by 48%), via enhanced uptake of LDL and VLDL. Altogether, the present findings reveal some novel roles for specific AA in macrophage atherogenicity, mainly through modulation of cellular triglyceride metabolism.