This study investigated whether the whole-plant aqueous extract of Crataegus aronia (C. aronia) could protect against or alleviate high-fat diet (HFD)-induced aortic vascular inflammation in rats by inhibiting the NLRP-3 inflammasome pathway and examined some mechanisms of action with respect to its antioxidant and hypolipidemic effects. Adult male Wistar rats were divided into five groups (n = 6/each): standard diet (10% fat) fed to control rats, control + C. aronia (200 mg/kg), HFD (40% fat), HFD + C. aronia, and HFD post-treated with C. aronia. The HFD was fed for 8 weeks and C. aronia was administered orally for 4 weeks. In addition, isolated macrophages from control rats were pre-incubated with two doses of C. aronia (25 and 50 μg/mL) with or without lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation. Only in HFD-fed rats, co- and post-C. aronia therapy lowered circulatory levels of LDL-C and ox-LDL-c and aortic protein levels of LOX-1 and CD36. C. aronia also inhibited the nuclear accumulation of NF-κB and lowered protein levels of NLRP-3, caspase-1, and mature IL-1β. In vitro, in the absence of ox-LDL-c, C. aronia led to reduced nuclear levels of NF-κB, ROS generation, and protein NLRP-3 levels, in both LPS-stimulated and unstimulated macrophages, in a dose-dependent manner. However, protein levels of LOX-1 were not affected by C. aronia in unstimulated cells. In conclusion, C. aronia inhibits the NLRP-3 inflammasome pathway, induced by HFD feeding in the aorta of rats, mainly by its hypolipidemic effect and in vitro, in LPS-stimulated macrophages, by its antioxidant effect.
Keywords: C. aronia; NLRP-3 inflammasome; Vascular inflammation; ox-LDL-c.