Gsα Regulates Macrophage Foam Cell Formation During Atherosclerosis

Circ Res. 2024 Mar 29;134(7):e34-e51. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.123.323156. Epub 2024 Feb 20.


Background: Many cardiovascular pathologies are induced by signaling through G-protein-coupled receptors via Gsα (G protein stimulatory α subunit) proteins. However, the specific cellular mechanisms that are driven by Gsα and contribute to the development of atherosclerosis remain unclear.

Methods: High-throughput screening involving data from single-cell and bulk sequencing were used to explore the expression of Gsα in atherosclerosis. The differentially expression and activity of Gsα were analyzed by immunofluorescence and cAMP measurements. Macrophage-specific Gsα knockout (Mac-GsαKO) mice were generated to study the effect on atherosclerosis. The role of Gsα was determined by transplanting bone marrow and performing assays for foam cell formation, Dil-ox-LDL (oxidized low-density lipoprotein) uptake, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and luciferase reporter assays.

Results: ScRNA-seq showed elevated Gnas in atherosclerotic mouse aorta's cholesterol metabolism macrophage cluster, while bulk sequencing confirmed increased GNAS expression in human plaque macrophage content. A significant upregulation of Gsα and active Gsα occurred in macrophages from human and mouse plaques. Ox-LDL could translocate Gsα from macrophage lipid rafts in short-term and promote Gnas transcription through ERK1/2 activation and C/EBPβ phosphorylation via oxidative stress in long-term. Atherosclerotic lesions from Mac-GsαKO mice displayed decreased lipid deposition compared with those from control mice. Additionally, Gsα deficiency alleviated lipid uptake and foam cell formation. Mechanistically, Gsα increased the levels of cAMP and transcriptional activity of the cAMP response element binding protein, which resulted in increased expression of CD36 and SR-A1. In the translational experiments, inhibiting Gsα activation with suramin or cpGN13 reduced lipid uptake, foam cell formation, and the progression of atherosclerotic plaques in mice in vivo.

Conclusions: Gsα activation is enhanced during atherosclerotic progression and increases lipid uptake and foam cell formation. The genetic or chemical inactivation of Gsα inhibit the development of atherosclerosis in mice, suggesting that drugs targeting Gsα may be useful in the treatment of atherosclerosis.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; cholesterol; foam cell; macrophage.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis* / metabolism
  • Foam Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic* / pathology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • GNAS protein, human
  • Gnas protein, mouse