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Lede, Vera, Franke, Christin, Meusel, Andrej, Teupser, Daniel, Ricken, Albert, Thiery, Joachim, Schiller, Jürgen, Huster, Daniel, Schöneberg, Torsten and Schulz, Angela (2016): Severe Atherosclerosis and Hypercholesterolemia in Mice Lacking Both the Melanocortin Type 4 Receptor and Low Density Lipoprotein Receptor.
In: PLOS ONE 11(12), e0167888 [PDF, 3MB]

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Dysfunction of the melanocortin system can result in severe obesity accompanied with dyslipidemia and symptoms of the metabolic syndrome but the effect on vascular atherogenesis is not known. To study the impact of obesity and dyslipidemia on the cardiovascular system, we generated mice double-deficient for the melanocortin type 4 receptor (Mc4r(mut) mice) and the LDL receptor (Ldlr(-/-) mice). Mc4r(mut) mice develop obesity due to hyperphagia. Double-mutant mice (Mc4r(mut);Ldlr(-/-)) exhibited massive increases in body weight, plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels and developed atherosclerosis. Atherosclerotic lesion size was affected throughout the aortic root and brachiocephalic artery not only under semisynthetic, cholesterol-containing diet but also under cholesterol-free standard chow. The Mc4r(mut) mice developed a hepatic steatosis which contributes to increased plasma cholesterol levels even under cholesterol-free standard chow. Transcripts of cholesterol biosynthesis components and liver cholesterol levels did not significantly differ between wild-type and all mutant mouse strains but RNA sequencing data and biochemical measurements point to an altered bile acid elimination in Mc4r(mut);Ldlr(-/-). Therefore, the unchanged endogenous cholesterol biosynthesis together with a reduced hepatic VLDL and LDL-cholesterol clearance most likely led to increased plasma lipid levels and consequently to atherosclerosis in this animal model. Our data indicate that dysfunction of the melanocortin-regulated food intake and the resulting obesity significantly add to the proatherogenic lipoprotein profile caused by LDL receptor deficiency and, therefore, can be regarded as relevant risk factor for atherosclerosis.

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