Tanshinone IIA (Tan IIA) possesses potent anti-atherogenic function, however, the underlying pharmacological mechanism remains incompletely understood. Previous studies suggest that oxidized LDL (oxLDL)-induced NLRP3 (NOD-like receptor (NLR) family, pyrin domain-containing protein 3) inflammasome activation in macrophages plays a vital role in atherogenesis. Whether the anti-atherogenic effect of Tan IIA relies on the inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome has not been investigated before. In this study, we found that Tan IIA treatment of high-fat diet fed ApoE-/- mice significantly attenuated NLRP3 inflammasome activation in vivo. Consistently, Tan IIA also potently inhibited oxLDL-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation in mouse macrophages. Mechanically, Tan IIA inhibited NF-κB activation to downregulate pro-interleukin (IL) -1β and NLRP3 expression, and decreased oxLDL-induced expression of lectin-like oxidized LDL receptor-1 (LOX-1) and cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36), thereby attenuating oxLDL cellular uptake and subsequent induction of mitochondrial and lysosomal damage – events that promote the NLRP3 inflammasome assembly. Through regulating both the inflammasome ‘priming’ and ‘activation’ steps, Tan IIA potently inhibited oxLDL-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation, thereby ameliorating atherogenesis.
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