Adropin, a peptide hormone expressed in liver and brain, is known to improve insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction. Serum levels of adropin are negatively associated with the severity of coronary artery disease. However, it remains unknown whether adropin could modulate atherogenesis. We assessed the effects of adropin on inflammatory molecule expression and human THP1 monocyte adhesion in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), foam cell formation in THP1 monocyte-derived macrophages, and the migration and proliferation of human aortic smooth muscle cells (HASMCs) in vitro and atherogenesis in Apoe-/- mice in vivo. Adropin was expressed in THP1 monocytes, their derived macrophages, HASMCs, and HUVECs. Adropin suppressed tumor necrosis factor α-induced THP1 monocyte adhesion to HUVECs, which was associated with vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 downregulation in HUVECs. Adropin shifted the phenotype to anti-inflammatory M2 rather than pro-inflammatory M1 via peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ upregulation during monocyte differentiation into macrophages. Adropin had no significant effects on oxidized low-density lipoprotein-induced foam cell formation in macrophages. In HASMCs, adropin suppressed the migration and proliferation without inducing apoptosis via ERK1/2 and Bax downregulation and phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt/Bcl2 upregulation. Chronic administration of adropin to Apoe-/- mice attenuated the development of atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta, with reduced the intra-plaque monocyte/macrophage infiltration and smooth muscle cell content. Thus, adropin could serve as a novel therapeutic target in atherosclerosis and related diseases.
Keywords: atherosclerosis; endothelial cell; inflammation; macrophage; monocyte; smooth muscle cell.