Background: Vascular inflammation and lipid deposition are prominent features of atherosclerotic lesion formation. We have shown previously that the dithiol compound alpha-lipoic acid (LA) exerts antiinflammatory effects by inhibiting tumor necrosis factor-alpha- and lipopolysaccharide-induced endothelial and monocyte activation in vitro and lipopolysaccharide-induced acute inflammatory responses in vivo. Here, we investigated whether LA inhibits atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient (apoE-/-) and apoE/low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient mice, 2 well-established animal models of human atherosclerosis.
Methods and results: Four-week-old female apoE-/- mice (n=20 per group) or apoE/low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient mice (n=21 per group) were fed for 10 weeks a Western-type chow diet containing 15% fat and 0.125% cholesterol without or with 0.2% (wt/wt) R,S-LA or a normal chow diet containing 4% fat without or with 0.2% (wt/wt) R-LA, respectively. Supplementation with LA significantly reduced atherosclerotic lesion formation in the aortic sinus of both mouse models by approximately 20% and in the aortic arch and thoracic aorta of apoE-/- and apoE/low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient mice by approximately 55% and 40%, respectively. This strong antiatherogenic effect of LA was associated with almost 40% less body weight gain and lower serum and very low-density lipoprotein levels of triglycerides but not cholesterol. In addition, LA supplementation reduced aortic expression of adhesion molecules and proinflammatory cytokines and aortic macrophage accumulation. These antiinflammatory effects of LA were more pronounced in the aortic arch and the thoracic aorta than in the aortic sinus, reflecting the corresponding reductions in atherosclerosis.
Conclusions: Our study shows that dietary LA supplementation inhibits atherosclerotic lesion formation in 2 mouse models of human atherosclerosis, an inhibition that appears to be due to the "antiobesity," antihypertriglyceridemic, and antiinflammatory effects of LA. LA may be a useful adjunct in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic vascular diseases.