The TMAO-Generating Enzyme Flavin Monooxygenase 3 Is a Central Regulator of Cholesterol Balance

Cell Rep. 2015 Jan 20;10(3):326-338. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.12.036. Epub 2015 Jan 15.


Circulating levels of the gut microbe-derived metabolite trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) have recently been linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Here, we performed transcriptional profiling in mouse models of altered reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) and serendipitously identified the TMAO-generating enzyme flavin monooxygenase 3 (FMO3) as a powerful modifier of cholesterol metabolism and RCT. Knockdown of FMO3 in cholesterol-fed mice alters biliary lipid secretion, blunts intestinal cholesterol absorption, and limits the production of hepatic oxysterols and cholesteryl esters. Furthermore, FMO3 knockdown stimulates basal and liver X receptor (LXR)-stimulated macrophage RCT, thereby improving cholesterol balance. Conversely, FMO3 knockdown exacerbates hepatic endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and inflammation in part by decreasing hepatic oxysterol levels and subsequent LXR activation. FMO3 is thus identified as a central integrator of hepatic cholesterol and triacylglycerol metabolism, inflammation, and ER stress. These studies suggest that the gut microbiota-driven TMA/FMO3/TMAO pathway is a key regulator of lipid metabolism and inflammation.