Metabolomic analysis of a selective ABCA1 inducer in obesogenic challenge provides a rationale for therapeutic development

EBioMedicine. 2021 Apr:66:103287. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103287. Epub 2021 Mar 19.


Background: Therapeutic agents with novel mechanisms of action are needed to combat the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and related metabolic syndromes. Liver X receptor (LXR) agonists possess preclinical efficacy yet produce side effects due to excessive lipogenesis. Anticipating that many beneficial and detrimental effects of LXR agonists are mediated by ABCA1 and SREPB1c expression, respectively, we hypothesized that a phenotypic optimization strategy prioritizing selective ABCA1 induction would identify an efficacious lead compound with an improved side effect profile over existing LXRβ agonists.

Methods: We synthesized and characterized a novel small molecule for selective induction of ABCA1 vs. SREBP1c in vitro. This compound was evaluated in both wild-type mice and a high-fat diet (HFD) mouse model of obesity-driven diabetes through functional, biochemical, and metabolomic analysis.

Findings: Six weeks of oral administration of our lead compound attenuated weight gain, glucose intolerance, insulin signaling deficits, and adiposity. Global metabolomics revealed suppression of gluconeogenesis, free fatty acids, and pro-inflammatory metabolites. Target identification linked these beneficial effects to selective LXRβ agonism and PPAR/RXR antagonism.

Interpretation: Our observations in the HFD model, combined with the absence of lipogenesis and neutropenia in WT mice, support this novel approach to therapeutic development for T2D and related conditions.

Keywords: ABCA1; Anti-inflammatory; Drug discovery; High-fat diet; Metabolomics; Type 2 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1 / agonists*
  • Adiposity / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Drug Development
  • Glucose Intolerance
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipids / blood
  • Lipogenesis
  • Liver X Receptors / agonists
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Metabolomics* / methods
  • Mice
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Retinoid X Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors


  • ABCA1 protein, mouse
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Lipids
  • Liver X Receptors
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Retinoid X Receptors