Organotins, including tri-butyltin chloride (TBTC), are widely used in agricultural and chemical industries and cause persistent and widespread pollution. TBTC has been shown to activate nuclear receptor retinoid X receptor (RXR)/PPARγ signaling by interacting with RXR to modulate adipogenesis. However, whether TBTC affects liver X receptor (LXR)/RXR activity and subsequently the expression of cholesterol mobilizing genes is not known. In this study, we evaluated the ability of TBTC to activate LXR/RXR and ABC transporter A1 (ABCA1) expression. ABCA1 plays a critical role in HDL generation, maintaining cholesterol homeostasis, and cholesterol accumulation-induced diseases, such as atherosclerosis and pancreatic islet dysfunction. In a reporter gene assay, TBTC activated LXRα/RXR but not LXRβ/RXR. In mouse macrophage RAW264 cells, TBTC activated the ABCA1 promoter in an LXR-responsive element dependent manner and increased ABCA1 mRNA expression. TBTC augmented ABCA1 protein levels and apolipoprotein A-I-dependent cellular cholesterol efflux (HDL generation). The LXR-target fatty acid synthase and Spα mRNA levels were also increased by TBTC exposure. We conclude that TBTC has the ability to activate permissive LXRα/RXR signaling and thereby modulate cellular cholesterol efflux.
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