4-phenylbutyrate and valproate treatment attenuates the progression of atherosclerosis and stabilizes existing plaques
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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Recent evidence suggests that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress signaling through glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3α/β is involved in the activation of pro-atherosclerotic processes. In this study, we examined the effects of small molecules that interfere with ER stress-GSK3α/β signaling on the progression and regression of atherosclerosis in a mouse model. METHODS: To examine atherosclerotic progression, low-density lipoprotein receptor deficient (Ldlr-/-) mice were placed on a high-fat diet (HFD) and treated with the chemical chaperone, 4-phenylbutyrate (4PBA, 3.8 g/L drinking water), or the GSK3α/β inhibitor, valproate (VPA, 625 mg VPA/kg diet), for 10 weeks. To examine potential effects on atherosclerotic regression, 4 week old Ldlr-/- mice were placed on a HFD for 16 weeks. Subsets of mice were harvested at this time or switched to a chow (low fat) diet, or a chow diet with 4PBA or VPA treatment for 4 weeks. RESULTS: In the progression model, the 4PBA- and VPA-treated mice had significantly reduced lesion and necrotic core size. Treatments had no effect on metabolic parameters, including plasma and hepatic lipid levels, or plaque composition. In the regression model, mice with 4PBA or VPA treatment showed no alterations in lesion size, but the lesions had significantly smaller necrotic cores, increased vascular smooth muscle cell content, and increased collagen content. These features are consistent with more stable plaques. CONCLUSIONS: The pharmacological attenuation of ER stress or inhibition of GSK3α/β impedes the development of atherosclerosis in Ldlr-/- mice and appears to promote the stabilization of existing lesions.
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