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Oxford University Press, European Heart Journal, 6(43), p. 518-533, 2021

DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehab644



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Propionate attenuates atherosclerosis by immune-dependent regulation of intestinal cholesterol metabolism

This paper was not found in any repository, but could be made available legally by the author.
This paper was not found in any repository, but could be made available legally by the author.

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Abstract Aims Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ACVD) is a major cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, and increased low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) play a critical role in development and progression of atherosclerosis. Here, we examined for the first time gut immunomodulatory effects of the microbiota-derived metabolite propionic acid (PA) on intestinal cholesterol metabolism. Methods and results Using both human and animal model studies, we demonstrate that treatment with PA reduces blood total and LDL cholesterol levels. In apolipoprotein E−/− (Apoe −/−) mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD), PA reduced intestinal cholesterol absorption and aortic atherosclerotic lesion area. Further, PA increased regulatory T-cell numbers and interleukin (IL)-10 levels in the intestinal microenvironment, which in turn suppressed the expression of Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 (Npc1l1), a major intestinal cholesterol transporter. Blockade of IL-10 receptor signalling attenuated the PA-related reduction in total and LDL cholesterol and augmented atherosclerotic lesion severity in the HFD-fed Apoe −/− mice. To translate these preclinical findings to humans, we conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled human study (clinical trial no. NCT03590496). Oral supplementation with 500 mg of PA twice daily over the course of 8 weeks significantly reduced LDL [−15.9 mg/dL (−8.1%) vs. −1.6 mg/dL (−0.5%), P = 0.016], total [−19.6 mg/dL (−7.3%) vs. −5.3 mg/dL (−1.7%), P = 0.014] and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels [PA vs. placebo: −18.9 mg/dL (−9.1%) vs. −0.6 mg/dL (−0.5%), P = 0.002] in subjects with elevated baseline LDL cholesterol levels. Conclusion Our findings reveal a novel immune-mediated pathway linking the gut microbiota-derived metabolite PA with intestinal Npc1l1 expression and cholesterol homeostasis. The results highlight the gut immune system as a potential therapeutic target to control dyslipidaemia that may introduce a new avenue for prevention of ACVDs.