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Nicotinic acid (NA) regresses atherosclerosis in human imaging studies and reduces atherosclerosis in mice, mediated by myeloid cells, independent of lipoproteins. Since GPR109A is expressed by human monocytes, we hypothesized that NA may drive cholesterol efflux from foam cells. In THP-1 cells NA suppressed LPS-induced mRNA transcription of MCP-1 by 76.6±12.2% (P<0.01) and TNFα by 56.1±11.5% (P<0.01), yet restored LPS-induced suppression of PPARγ transcription by 536.5±46.4% (P<0.001) and its downstream effector CD36 by 116.8±19.8% (P<0.01). Whilst direct PPARγ-agonism promoted cholesterol efflux from THP-1 derived foam cells by 37.7±3.1% (P<0.01) and stimulated transcription of LXRα by 87.9±9.5% (P<0.001) and ABCG1 by 101.2±15.5% (P<0.01), NA showed no effect in foam cells on either cholesterol efflux or key RCT genes transcription. Upon foam cell induction, NA lost its effect on PPARγ and cAMP pathways, since its receptor, GPR109A, was down-regulated by foam cell transformation. This observation was confirmed in explanted human carotid plaques. In conclusion, despite NA's anti-inflammatory effect on human macrophages, it has no effect on foam cells in reverse cholesterol transport; due to GPR109A down-regulation.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1, ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 1, ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters, Benzophenones, Biological Transport, Cell Line, Cholesterol, Cyclic AMP, Down-Regulation, Foam Cells, Humans, Inflammation Mediators, Lipopolysaccharides, Niacin, Orphan Nuclear Receptors, PPAR gamma, Plaque, Atherosclerotic, Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled, Receptors, Nicotinic, Transcription, Genetic, Tyrosine