Endocrinology and Metabolism


Leptin is an adipose tissue-derived hormone implicated in atherosclerosis and macrophage foam cell formation. The current study was conducted to examine the effect of leptin on cholesteryl ester accumulation in human monocytes/macrophages. Exogenously added leptin at 5 nM during differentiation of monocytes into macrophages for 7 days accelerated acetylated LDL (acetyl-LDL)-induced cholesteryl ester accumulation by 30–50%. Leptin did not affect endocytic uptake of acetyl-LDL; however, it increased ACAT activity 1.8-fold and ACAT-1 protein expression 1.9-fold. Among the four ACAT-1 mRNA transcripts, two shorter transcripts (2.8 and 3.6 kb) were upregulated ∼1.7-fold upon leptin treatment. The enhanced expression of ACAT-1 protein by leptin was suppressed by inhibitors of Janus-activated kinase2 (JAK2) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K). HDL-mediated cholesterol efflux was suppressed by leptin, which was canceled by K-604, an ACAT-1 inhibitor. Expression of long form of leptin receptor was upregulated during monocytic differentiation into macrophages and sustained after differentiation. Thus, the results suggest that leptin accelerates cholesteryl ester accumulation in human monocyte-derived macrophages by increasing ACAT-1 expression via JAK2 and PI3K, thereby suppressing cholesterol efflux.

  • leptin receptor
  • acyl-coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase-1
  • acyl-coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase inhibitor
  • atherosclerosis
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