Oxytocin (OT) is a neuropeptide hormone secreted by the posterior pituitary gland. Deficits in OT action have been observed in patients with behavioral and mood disorders, some of which correlate with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Recent research has revealed a wider systemic role that OT plays in inflammatory modulation and development of atherosclerotic plaques. This study investigated the role that OT plays in cholesterol transport and foam cell formation in LPS-stimulated THP-1 human macrophages.
THP-1 differentiated macrophages were treated with media, LPS (100 ng/ml), LPS + OT (10 pM), or LPS + OT (100 pM). Changes in gene expression and protein levels of cholesterol transporters were analyzed by real time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and Western blot, while ox-LDL uptake and cholesterol efflux capacity were evaluated with fluorometric assays.
RT-qPCR analysis revealed a significant increase in ABCG1 gene expression upon OT + LPS treatment, compared to LPS alone (p = 0.0081), with Western blotting supporting the increase in expression of the ABCG1 protein. Analysis of ox-LDL uptake showed a significantly lower fluorescent value in LPS + OT (100pM) -treated cells when compared to LPS alone (p < 0.0001). While not statistically significant (p = 0.06), cholesterol efflux capacity increased with LPS + OT treatment.
We demonstrate here that OT can attenuate LPS-mediated lipid accumulation in THP-1 macrophages. These findings support the hypothesis that OT could be used to reduce pro-inflammatory and potentially atherogenic changes observed in patients with heightened CVD risk. This study suggests further exploration of OT effects on monocyte and macrophage cholesterol handling in vivo.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.