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Overexpression of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein in rat aortic endothelial cells attenuates palmitic acid-induced inflammation and reduction in nitric oxide bioavailability

Dai Tian, Yanyan Qiu, Yongkun Zhan, Xiaobo Li, Xiuling Zhi, Xinhong Wang, Lianhua Yin and Yanxia Ning*

Author Affiliations

Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200032, P.R. China

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Cardiovascular Diabetology 2012, 11:144  doi:10.1186/1475-2840-11-144

Published: 21 November 2012



Endothelial dysfunction is a well documented evidence for the onset of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. Lipids disorder is among the main risk factors for endothelial dysfunction in these diseases. Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), one of the cholesterol transporters, plays an important role in the maintenance of intracellular lipid homeostasis. However, the effect of StAR on endothelial dysfunction is not well understood. Palmitic acid (PA) has been shown to decrease eNOS activity and induce inflammation, both are the causes of endothelial dysfunction, in an endothelial cell culture model.


StAR gene was introduced into primary rat aortic endothelial cells by adenovirus infection. Real-time PCR and Western blotting were performed to determine the relative genes and proteins expression level to elucidate the underlying mechanism. The free fatty acid and cholesterol quantification kits were used to detect total cellular free fatty acid and cholesterol. The levels of inflammatory factors and nitric oxide were determined by ELISA and classic Griess reagent methods respectively.


We successfully overexpressed StAR in primary rat aortic endothelial cells. Following StAR overexpression, mRNA levels of IL-1β, TNFα, IL6 and VCAM-1 and protein levels of IL-1β, , TNFα and IL-6 in culture supernatant were significantly decreased, which duing to blocke NFκB nuclear translocation and activation. Moreover, StAR overexpression attenuated the PA-induced reduction of nitric oxide bioavailability by protecting the bioactivity of pAkt/peNOS/NO pathway. Furthermore, the key genes involved in lipid metabolism were greatly reduced following StAR overexpression. In order to investigate the underlying mechanism, cerulenin and lovastatin, the inhibitor of fatty acid and cholesterol synthase, were added prior to PA treatment. The results showed that both cerulenin and lovastatin had a similar effect as StAR overexpression. On the other hand, the role of StAR was inhibited when siRNA was introduced to reduce StAR expression.


Our results showed that StAR attenuated lipid synthesis and uptake as well as PA-induced inflammation and reduction in NO bioavailability in aortic endothelial cells. StAR can ameliorate endothelial dysfunction induced by PA via reducing the intracellular lipid levels.

Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein; Endothelial dysfunction; Palmitic acid; Inflammation; Lipid metabolism; Nitric oxide