Objective: To investigate the process by which quercetin suppresses atherosclerosis by upregulating MST1-mediated autophagy in RAW264.7 macrophages. Methods: An in vitro foam cell model was established by culturing RAW264.7 macrophages with oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL). The cells were treated with quercetin alone or in combination with the autophagy inhibitor, 3-methyladenine, and autophagy agonist, rapamycin. Cell viability was detected with a CCK-8 kit. Lipid accumulation was detected by oil red O staining, senescence was detected by SA-β-gal (senescence-associated β-galactosidase) staining, reactive oxygen species were detected by ROS assay kit. Autophagosomes and mitochondria were detected by transmission electron microscope (TEM), and expression of MST1, LC3-II/I, Beclin1, Bcl-2, P21, and P16 were detected by immunofluorescence and Western blot. Results: Ox-LDL induced RAW264.7 macrophage-derived foam cell formation, reduced survival, aggravated cell lipid accumulation, and induced a senescence phenotype. This was accompanied by decreased formation of autophagosome; increased expression of P53, P21, and P16; and decreased expression of LC3-II/I and Beclin1. After intervention with quercetin, the cell survival rate was increased, and lipid accumulation and senescence phenotype were reduced. Furthermore, the expression of LC3-II/I and Beclin1 were increased, which was consistent with the ability of quercetin to promote autophagy. Ox-LDL also increased the expression of MST1, and this increase was blocked by quercetin, which provided a potential mechanism by which quercetin may protect foam cells against age-related detrimental effects. Conclusion: Quercetin can inhibit the formation of foam cells induced by ox-LDL and delay senescence. The mechanism may be related to the regulation of MST1-mediated autophagy of RAW264.7 cells.
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