Long Noncoding RNA Gpr137b-ps Promotes Advanced Atherosclerosis via the Regulation of Autophagy in Macrophages

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2023 Nov;43(11):e468-e489. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.123.319037. Epub 2023 Sep 28.


Background: Current therapies cannot completely reverse advanced atherosclerosis. High levels of amino acids, induced by Western diet, stimulate mTORC1 (mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1)-autophagy defects in macrophages, accelerating atherosclerotic plaque progression. In addition, autophagy-lysosomal dysfunction contributes to plaque necrotic core enlargement and lipid accumulation. Therefore, it is essential to investigate the novel mechanism and molecules to reverse amino acid-mTORC1-autophagy signaling dysfunction in macrophages of patients with advanced atherosclerosis.

Methods: We observed that Gpr137b-ps (G-protein-coupled receptor 137B, pseudogene) was upregulated in advanced atherosclerotic plaques. The effect of Gpr137b-ps on the progression of atherosclerosis was studied by generating advanced plaques in ApoE-/- mice with cardiac-specific knockout of Gpr137b-ps. Bone marrow-derived macrophages and mouse mononuclear macrophage cell line RAW264.7 cells were subjected to starvation or amino acid stimulation to study amino acid-mTORC1-autophagy signaling. Using both gain- and loss-of-function approaches, we explored the mechanism of Gpr137b-ps-regulated autophagy.

Results: Our results demonstrated that Gpr137b-ps deficiency led to enhanced autophagy in macrophages and reduced atherosclerotic lesions, characterized by fewer necrotic cores and less lipid accumulation. Knockdown of Gpr137b-ps increased autophagy and prevented amino acid-induced mTORC1 signaling activation. As the downstream binding protein of Gpr137b-ps, HSC70 (heat shock cognate 70) rescued the impaired autophagy induced by Gpr137b-ps. Furthermore, Gpr137b-ps interfered with the HSC70 binding to G3BP (Ras GTPase-activating protein-binding protein), which tethers the TSC (tuberous sclerosis complex) complex to lysosomes and suppresses mTORC1 signaling. In addition to verifying that the NTF2 (nuclear transport factor 2) domain of G3BP binds to HSC70 by in vitro protein synthesis, we further demonstrated that HSC70 binds to the NTF2 domain of G3BP through its W90-F92 motif by using computational modeling.

Conclusions: These findings reveal that Gpr137b-ps plays an essential role in the regulation of macrophage autophagy, which is crucial for the progression of advanced atherosclerosis. Gpr137b-ps impairs the interaction of HSC70 with G3BP to regulate amino acid-mTORC1-autophagy signaling, and these results provide a new potential therapeutic direction for the treatment of advanced atherosclerosis.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; autophagy; lysosomes; macrophages; pseudogenes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis* / pathology
  • Autophagy / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lipids
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic* / pathology
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / metabolism


  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Amino Acids
  • Lipids