Intact endothelial autophagy is required to maintain vascular lipid homeostasis

Kumiko Torisu, Krishna K. Singh, Takehiro Torisu, Fina Lovren, Jie Liu, Yi Pan, Adrian Quan, Azza Ramadan, Mohammed Al-Omran, Natalie Pankova, Shelley R. Boyd, Subodh Verma, Toren Finkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


The physiological role of autophagic flux within the vascular endothelial layer remains poorly understood. Here, we show that in primary endothelial cells, oxidized and native LDL stimulates autophagosome formation. Moreover, by both confocal and electron microscopy, excess native or modified LDL appears to be engulfed within autophagic structures. Transient knockdown of the essential autophagy gene ATG7 resulted in higher levels of intracellular 125I-LDL and oxidized LDL (OxLDL) accumulation, suggesting that in endothelial cells, autophagy may represent an important mechanism to regulate excess, exogenous lipids. The physiological importance of these observations was assessed using mice containing a conditional deletion of ATG7 within the endothelium. Following acute intravenous infusion of fluorescently labeled OxLDL, mice lacking endothelial expression of ATG7 demonstrated prolonged retention of OxLDL within the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and choroidal endothelium of the eye. In a chronic model of lipid excess, we analyzed atherosclerotic burden in ApoE-/-mice with or without endothelial autophagic flux. The absence of endothelial autophagy markedly increased atherosclerotic burden. Thus, in both an acute and chronic in vivo model, endothelial autophagy appears critically important in limiting lipid accumulation within the vessel wall. As such, strategies that stimulate autophagy, or prevent the age-dependent decline in autophagic flux, might be particularly beneficial in treating atherosclerotic vascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-191
Number of pages5
JournalAging cell
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ageing
  • Cell Biology


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