Atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease, is a major contributor to cardiovascular diseases. Ursolic acid (UA) is a phytonutrient with widely biological effects including anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and so on. At present, the effect of UA on atherosclerosis and the mechanism of action are still obscure. This study focused on investigating the effects of UA on atherosclerosis both in vivo and in vitro. We first selected LOX-1 as our target, which was reckoned as a new promising receptor for treating atherosclerosis. The evaluation in vitro suggested that UA significantly decreased endothelial LOX-1 expression induced by LPS both in mRNA and protein levels. Pre-treatment of UA also inhibited TLR4/MyD88 signaling activated by LPS. Moreover, UA reduced ROS production and suppressed the activation of NF-κB stimulated by LPS. Particularly, the evaluation in vivo further verified the conclusion obtained in vitro. In ApoE−/−
mice fed with an atherogenic diet, both UA (100 mg/kg/day) and simvastatin significantly attenuated atherosclerotic plaque formation and shrunk necrotic core areas. The enhanced expression of LOX-1 in atherosclerotic aorta was also dramatically decreased by administration of UA. Taken together, these results suggested that UA, with anti-atherosclerotic activity through inhibition of LOX-1 mediated by ROS/NF-κB signaling pathways, may become a valuable vascular protective candidate for the treatment of atherosclerosis.
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