ABC transporter G1 (ABCG1) plays a pivotal role in HDL-mediated cholesterol efflux and atherogenesis. We investigated whether, and how, retinoic acid receptors (RARs) regulate ABCG1 expression in macrophages. All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), an RAR ligand, increased ABCG1 protein levels and apoA-I/HDL-mediated cholesterol efflux from the macrophages. Both ATRA and other RAR agonists, TTNPB and Am580, increased major transcripts driven by promoter B upstream of exon 5, though minor transcripts driven by promoter A upstream of exon 1 were only increased by ATRA. The stimulatory effects of ATRA on ABCG1 expression were completely abolished in the presence of RAR/RXR antagonists but were only partially canceled in the presence of an LXR antagonist. Adenovirus with overexpressed oxysterol sulfotransferase abolished the LXR pathway, as previously reported, and ATRA-responsiveness in ABCA1/ABCG1 expressions were respectively attenuated by 38 and 22% compared to the control virus. Promoter assays revealed that ABCG1 levels were regulated more by promoter B than promoter A, and ATRA activated promoter B in a liver X receptor-responsive element (LXRE)-dependent manner. Further, LXRE-B in intron 7, but not LXRE-A in intron 5, enhanced ATRA responsiveness under overexpression of all RAR isoforms-RARα/β/γ. In contrast, the activation of promoter B by TTNPB depended on LXRE-B and RARα, but not on RARβ/γ. Finally, chromatin immunoprecipitation and gel-shift assays revealed a specific and direct repeat 4-dependent binding of RARα to LXRE-B. In conclusion, RAR ligands increase ABCA1/G1 expression and apoA-I/HDL-mediated cholesterol efflux from macrophages, and modulate ABCG1 promoter activity via LXRE-dependent mechanisms.
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