The apolipoprotein A-I mimetic peptide D-4F, among its anti-atherosclerotic effects, improves vasodilation through mechanisms not fully elucidated yet.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor null (LDLr) mice were fed Western diet with or without D-4F. We then measured atherosclerotic lesion formation, endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) phosphorylation and its association with heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), nitric oxide (NO) and superoxide anion (O) production, and tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) and GTP-cyclohydrolase 1 (GCH-1) concentration in the aorta. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and aortas were treated with oxidized LDL (oxLDL) with or without D-4F; subsequently, BH4 and GCH-1 concentration, NO and O production, eNOS association with HSP90, and endothelium-dependent vasodilation were measured.
Unexpectedly, eNOS phosphorylation, eNOS-HSP90 association, and O production were increased, whereas BH4 and GCH-1 concentration and NO production were reduced in atherosclerosis. D-4F significantly inhibited atherosclerosis, eNOS phosphorylation, eNOS-HSP90 association, and O generation but increased NO production and BH4 and GCH-1 concentration. OxLDL reduced NO production and BH4 and GCH-1 concentration but enhanced O generation and eNOS association with HSP90, and impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation. D-4F inhibited the overall effects of oxLDL.
Hypercholesterolemia enhanced uncoupled eNOS activity by decreasing GCH-1 concentration, thereby reducing BH4 levels. D-4F reduced uncoupled eNOS activity by increasing BH4 levels through GCH-1 expression and decreasing eNOS phosphorylation and eNOS-HSP90 association. Our findings elucidate a novel mechanism by which hypercholesterolemia induces atherosclerosis and D-4F inhibits it, providing a potential therapeutic approach.

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