The role of β-carotene and vitamin A in atherogenesis: Evidences from preclinical and clinical studies

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2020 Nov;1865(11):158635. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2020.158635. Epub 2020 Jan 21.


Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) is the principal contributor to myocardial infarction, the leading cause of death worldwide. Epidemiological and mechanistic studies indicate that β-carotene and its vitamin A derivatives stimulate lipid catabolism in several tissues to reduce the incidence of obesity, but their roles within ASCVD are elusive. Herein, we review the mechanisms by which β-carotene and vitamin A modulate ASCVD. First, we summarize the current knowledge linking these nutrients with epidemiological studies and lipoprotein metabolism as one of the initiating factors of ASCVD. Next, we focus on different aspects of vitamin A metabolism in immune cells such as the mechanisms of carotenoid uptake and conversion to the vitamin A metabolite, retinoic acid. Lastly, we review the effects of retinoic acid on immuno-metabolism, differentiation, and function of macrophages and T cells, the two pillars of the innate and adaptive immune response in ASCVD, respectively. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Carotenoids recent advances in cell and molecular biology edited by Johannes von Lintig and Loredana Quadro.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Immunity; Retinoids; VLDL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism*
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Vitamin A / metabolism*
  • Vitamin A / therapeutic use
  • beta Carotene / metabolism
  • beta Carotene / therapeutic use*


  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A