Activating transcription factor 4 regulates angiogenesis under lipid overload via methionine adenosyltransferase 2A-mediated endothelial epigenetic alteration

FASEB J. 2021 Jun;35(6):e21612. doi: 10.1096/fj.202100233R.


Lipid overload is intimately connected with the change of endothelial epigenetic status which impacts cellular signaling activities and endothelial function. Activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) is involved in the regulation of lipid metabolism and meanwhile an epigenetic modifier. However, the role of ATF4 in the angiogenesis under lipid overload is not well understood. Here, to induce lipid overload status, we employed high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obese mouse model in vivo and palmitic acid (PA) to stimulate endothelial cells in vitro. Compared with mice fed with normal chow diet (NCD), HFD-induced obese mice showed angiogenic defects evidenced by decline in (1) blood flow recovery after hind limb ischemia, (2) wound healing speed after skin injury, (3) capillary density in injured tissues and matrigel plugs, and (4) endothelial sprouts of aortic ring. ATF4 deficiency aggravated above angiogenic defects in mice while ATF4 overexpression improved the blunted angiogenic response. Mechanistically, lipid overload lowered the H3K4 methylation levels at the regulatory regions of NOS3 and ERK1 genes, leading to reduced angiogenic signaling activity. Methionine adenosyltransferase 2A (MAT2A) is identified as a target of ATF4 and formed complex with ATF4 to direct lysine methyltransferase 2A (MLL1) to the regulatory regions of both genes for the maintenance of the H3K4 methylation level and angiogenic signaling activity. Here, we uncovered a novel metabolic-epigenetic coupling orchestrated by the ATF4-MAT2A axis for angiogenesis. The ATF4-MAT2A axis links lipid overload milieu to altered epigenetic status of relevant angiogenic signaling in endothelial cells, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for angiogenesis impaired by lipid overload.

Keywords: activating transcription factor 4; angiogenesis; epigenetics; lipid overload; methionine adenosyltransferase 2a.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 4 / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Ischemia / etiology
  • Ischemia / metabolism
  • Ischemia / pathology*
  • Lipids / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Methionine Adenosyltransferase / genetics
  • Methionine Adenosyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Obese
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / etiology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology*
  • Obesity / complications*


  • Atf4 protein, mouse
  • Lipids
  • Activating Transcription Factor 4
  • Mat2a protein, mouse
  • Methionine Adenosyltransferase