Characterization of a second sterol-esterifying enzyme in Toxoplasma highlights the importance of cholesterol storage pathways for the parasite.
ABSTRACT: Lipid bodies are eukaryotic structures for temporary storage of neutral lipids such as acylglycerols and steryl esters. Fatty acyl-CoA and cholesterol are two substrates for cholesteryl ester (CE) synthesis via the ACAT reaction. The intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii is incapable of sterol synthesis and unremittingly scavenges cholesterol from mammalian host cells. We previously demonstrated that the parasite expresses a cholesteryl ester-synthesizing enzyme, TgACAT1. In this article, we identified and characterized a second ACAT-like enzyme, TgACAT2, which shares 56% identity with TgACAT1. Both enzymes are endoplasmic reticulum-associated and contribute to CE formation for storage in lipid bodies. While TgACAT1 preferentially utilizes palmitoyl-CoA, TgACAT2 has broader fatty acid specificity and produces more CE. Genetic ablation of each individual ACAT results in parasite growth impairment whereas dual ablation of ACAT1 and ACAT2 is not tolerated by Toxoplasma. ?ACAT1 and ?ACAT2 parasites have reduced CE levels, fewer lipid bodies, and accumulate free cholesterol, which causes injurious membrane effects. Mutant parasites are particularly vulnerable to ACAT inhibitors. This study underlines the important physiological role of ACAT enzymes to store cholesterol in a sterol-auxotrophic organism such as Toxoplasma, and furthermore opens up possibilities of exploiting TgACAT as targets for the development of antitoxoplasmosis drugs.
Project description:Cholesterol metabolism has been implicated in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases, including the abnormal accumulation of amyloid-beta, one of the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease (AD). Acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferases (ACAT1 and ACAT2) are two enzymes that convert free cholesterol to cholesteryl esters. ACAT inhibitors have recently emerged as promising drug candidates for AD therapy. However, how ACAT inhibitors act in the brain has so far remained unclear. Here we show that ACAT1 is the major functional isoenzyme in the mouse brain. ACAT1 gene ablation (A1-) in triple transgenic (i.e., 3XTg-AD) mice leads to more than 60% reduction in full-length human APPswe as well as its proteolytic fragments, and ameliorates cognitive deficits. At 4 months of age, A1- causes a 32% content increase in 24-hydroxycholesterol (24SOH), the major oxysterol in the brain. It also causes a 65% protein content decrease in HMG-CoA reductase (HMGR) and a 28% decrease in sterol synthesis rate in AD mouse brains. In hippocampal neurons, A1- causes an increase in the 24SOH synthesis rate; treating hippocampal neuronal cells with 24SOH causes rapid declines in hAPP and in HMGR protein levels. A model is provided to explain our findings: in neurons, A1- causes increases in cholesterol and 24SOH contents in the endoplasmic reticulum, which cause reductions in hAPP and HMGR protein contents and lead to amelioration of amyloid pathology. Our study supports the potential of ACAT1 as a therapeutic target for treating certain forms of AD.
Project description:ACAT1 (acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase 1) is thought to have two distinct sterol-binding sites: a substrate-binding site and an allosteric-activator site. In the present work, we investigated the structural features of various sterols as substrates and/or activators in vitro. The results show that without cholesterol, the plant sterol sitosterol is a poor substrate for ACAT. In the presence of cholesterol, ACAT1-mediated esterification of sitosterol is highly activated while ACAT2-mediated esterification of sitosterol is only moderately activated. For ACAT1, we show that the stereochemistry of the 3-hydroxy group at steroid ring A is a critical structural feature for a sterol to serve as a substrate, but less critical for activation. Additionally, enantiomeric cholesterol, which has the same biophysical properties as cholesterol in membranes, fails to activate ACAT1. Thus ACAT1 activation by cholesterol is the result of stereo-specific interactions between cholesterol and ACAT1, and is not related to the biophysical properties of phospholipid membranes. To demonstrate the relevance of the ACAT1 allosteric model in intact cells, we showed that sitosterol esterification in human macrophages is activated upon cholesterol loading. We further show that the activation is not due to an increase in ACAT1 protein content, but is partly due to an increase in the cholesterol content in the endoplasmic reticulum where ACAT1 resides. Together, our results support the existence of a distinct sterol-activator site in addition to the sterol-substrate site of ACAT1 and demonstrate the applicability of the ACAT1 allosteric model in intact cells.
Project description:The hypothesis tested in this study was that cholesterol esterification by ACAT2 would increase cholesterol absorption efficiency by providing cholesteryl ester (CE) for incorporation into chylomicrons. The assumption was that absorption would be proportional to Acat2 gene dosage. Male ACAT2?/?, ACAT2?/?, and ACAT2?/? mice were fed a diet containing 20% of energy as palm oil with 0.2% (w/w) cholesterol. Cholesterol absorption efficiency was measured by fecal dual-isotope and thoracic lymph duct cannulation (TLDC) methods using [³H]sitosterol and [¹?C]cholesterol tracers. Excellent agreement among individual mice was found for cholesterol absorption measured by both techniques. Cholesterol absorption efficiency in ACAT2?/? mice was 16% compared with 46-47% in ACAT2?/? and ACAT2?/? mice. Chylomicrons from ACAT2?/? and ACAT2?/? mice carried ?80% of total sterol mass as CE, whereas ACAT2?/? chylomicrons carried >90% of sterol mass in the unesterified form. The total percentage of chylomicron mass as CE was reduced from 12% in the presence of ACAT2 to ?1% in ACAT2?/? mice. Altogether, the data demonstrate that ACAT2 increases cholesterol absorption efficiency by providing CE for chylomicron transport, but one copy of the Acat2 gene, providing ?50% of ACAT2 mRNA and enzyme activity, was as effective as two copies in promoting cholesterol absorption.
Project description:In this report, we sought to determine the putative active site residues of ACAT enzymes. For experimental purposes, a particular region of the C-terminal end of the ACAT protein was selected as the putative active site domain due to its high degree of sequence conservation from yeast to humans. Because ACAT enzymes have an intrinsic thioesterase activity, we hypothesized that by analogy with the thioesterase domain of fatty acid synthase, the active site of ACAT enzymes may comprise a catalytic triad of ser-his-asp (S-H-D) amino acid residues. Mutagenesis studies revealed that in ACAT1, S456, H460, and D400 were essential for activity. In ACAT2, H438 was required for enzymatic activity. However, mutation of D378 destabilized the enzyme. Surprisingly, we were unable to identify any S mutations of ACAT2 that abolished catalytic activity. Moreover, ACAT2 was insensitive to serine-modifying reagents, whereas ACAT1 was not. Further studies indicated that tyrosine residues may be important for ACAT activity. Mutational analysis showed that the tyrosine residue of the highly conserved FYXDWWN motif was important for ACAT activity. Furthermore, Y518 was necessary for ACAT1 activity, whereas the analogous residue in ACAT2, Y496, was not. The available data suggest that the amino acid requirement for ACAT activity may be different for the two ACAT isozymes.
Project description:Targeted deletion of acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase 2 (ACAT2) (A2), especially in the liver, protects hyperlipidemic mice from diet-induced hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis, whereas the deletion of ACAT1 (A1) is not as effective, suggesting ACAT2 may be the more appropriate target for treatment of atherosclerosis. Among the numerous ACAT inhibitors known, pyripyropene A (PPPA) is the only compound that has high selectivity (>2000-fold) for inhibition of ACAT2 compared with ACAT1. In the present study we sought to determine the PPPA interaction site of ACAT2. To achieve this goal we made several chimeric proteins where parts of ACAT2 were replaced by the analogous region of ACAT1. Differences in the amino acid sequence and the membrane topology were utilized to design the chimeras. Among chimeras, A2:1-428/A1:444-550 had 50% reduced PPPA selectivity, whereas C-terminal-truncated ACAT2 mutant A2:1-504 (C-terminal last 22 amino acids were deleted) remained selectively inhibited, indicating the PPPA-sensitive site is located within a region between amino acids 440 and 504. Three additional chimeras within this region helped narrow down the PPPA-sensitive site to a region containing amino acids 480-504, representing the fifth putative transmembrane domain of ACAT2. Subsequently, for this region we made single amino acid mutants where each amino acid in ACAT2 was individually changed to its ACAT1 counterpart. Mutation of Q492L, V493L, S494A resulted in only 30, 50, and 70% inhibition of the activity by PPPA, respectively (as opposed to greater than 95% with the wild type enzyme), suggesting these three residues are responsible for the selective inhibition by PPPA of ACAT2. Additionally, we found that PPPA non-covalently interacts with ACAT2 apparently without altering the oligomeric structure of the protein. The present study provides the first evidence for a unique motif in ACAT2 that can be utilized for making an ACAT2-specific drug.
Project description:Cholesterol plays essential structural and signaling roles in mammalian cells, but too much cholesterol can cause cytotoxicity. Acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferases 1 and 2 (ACAT1/2) convert cholesterol into its storage form, cholesteryl esters, regulating a key step in cellular cholesterol homeostasis. Adipose tissue can store >50% of whole-body cholesterol. Interestingly, however, almost no ACAT activity is present in adipose tissue, and most adipose cholesterol is stored in its free form. We therefore hypothesized that increased cholesterol esterification may have detrimental effects on adipose tissue function. Here, using several approaches, including protein overexpression, quantitative RT-PCR, immunofluorescence, and various biochemical assays, we found that ACAT1 expression is significantly increased in the adipose tissue of the ob/ob mice. We further demonstrated that ACAT1/2 overexpression partially inhibited the differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes. In mature adipocytes, increased ACAT activity reduced the size of lipid droplets (LDs) and inhibited lipolysis and insulin signaling. Paradoxically, the amount of free cholesterol increased on the surface of LDs in ACAT1/2-overexpressing adipocytes, accompanied by increased LD localization of caveolin-1. Moreover, cholesterol depletion in adipocytes by treating the cells with cholesterol-deficient media or ?-cyclodextrins induced changes in cholesterol distribution that were similar to those caused by ACAT1/2 overexpression. Our results suggest that ACAT1/2 overexpression increases the level of free cholesterol on the LD surface, thereby impeding adipocyte function. These findings provide detailed insights into the role of free cholesterol in LD and adipocyte function and suggest that ACAT inhibitors have potential utility for managing disorders associated with extreme obesity.
Project description:Humans express two ACAT (acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase) genes, ACAT1 and ACAT2. ACAT1 is ubiquitously expressed, whereas ACAT2 is primarily expressed in intestinal mucosa and plays an important role in intestinal cholesterol absorption. To investigate the molecular mechanism(s) responsible for the tissue-specific expression of ACAT2, we identified five cis-elements within the human ACAT2 promoter, four for the intestinal-specific transcription factor CDX2 (caudal type homeobox transcription factor 2), and one for the transcription factor HNF1alpha (hepatocyte nuclear factor 1alpha). Results of luciferase reporter and electrophoretic mobility shift assays show that CDX2 and HNF1alpha exert a synergistic effect, enhancing the ACAT2 promoter activity through binding to these cis-elements. In undifferentiated Caco-2 cells, the ACAT2 expression is increased when exogenous CDX2 and/or HNF1alpha are expressed by co-transfection. In differentiated Caco-2 cells, the ACAT2 expression significantly decreases when the endogenous CDX2 or HNF1alpha expression is suppressed by using RNAi (RNA interference) technology. The expression levels of CDX2, HNF1alpha, and ACAT2 are all greatly increased when the Caco-2 cells differentiate to become intestinal-like cells. These results provide a molecular mechanism for the tissue-specific expression of ACAT2 in intestine. In normal adult human liver, CDX2 expression is not detectable and the ACAT2 expression is very low. In the hepatoma cell line HepG2 the CDX2 expression is elevated, accounting for its elevated ACAT2 expression. A high percentage (seven of fourteen) of liver samples from patients affected with hepatocellular carcinoma exhibited elevated ACAT2 expression. Thus, the elevated ACAT2 expression may serve as a new biomarker for certain form(s) of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Project description:Both genetic inactivation and pharmacological inhibition of the cholesteryl ester synthetic enzyme acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase 1 (ACAT1) have shown benefit in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In this study, we aimed to test the potential therapeutic applications of adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated Acat1 gene knockdown in AD mice. We constructed recombinant AAVs expressing artificial microRNA (miRNA) sequences, which targeted Acat1 for knockdown. We demonstrated that our AAVs could infect cultured mouse neurons and glia and effectively knockdown ACAT activity in vitro. We next delivered the AAVs to mouse brains neurosurgically, and demonstrated that Acat1-targeting AAVs could express viral proteins and effectively diminish ACAT activity in vivo, without inducing appreciable inflammation. We delivered the AAVs to the brains of 10-month-old AD mice and analyzed the effects on the AD phenotype at 12 months of age. Acat1-targeting AAV delivered to the brains of AD mice decreased the levels of brain amyloid-? and full-length human amyloid precursor protein (hAPP), to levels similar to complete genetic ablation of Acat1. This study provides support for the potential therapeutic use of Acat1 knockdown gene therapy in AD.
Project description:Identifying the likelihood of a patient having coronary artery disease (CAD) at the time of emergency department (ED) presentation with chest pain could reduce the need for stress testing or coronary imaging after myocardial infarction (MI) has been excluded. The authors aimed to determine if a novel cardiac biomarker consisting of plasma cholesteryl ester (CE) levels typically derived from the activity of the enzyme acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT2) are predictive of CAD in a clinical model.A single-center prospective cohort design enrolled participants with symptoms of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) undergoing coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) or invasive angiography. Plasma samples were analyzed for CE composition with mass spectrometry. The primary endpoint was any CAD determined at angiography. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to estimate the relationship between the sum of the plasma concentrations from cholesteryl palmitoleate (16:1) and cholesteryl oleate (18:1) (defined as ACAT2-CE) and the presence of CAD. The added value of ACAT2-CE to the model was analyzed comparing the C-statistics and integrated discrimination improvement (IDI).The study cohort was composed of 113 participants with a mean (± standard deviation [SD]) age of 49 (±11.7) years, 59% had CAD at angiography, and 23% had an MI within 30 days. The median (interquartile range [IQR]) plasma concentration of ACAT2-CE was 938 ?mol/L (IQR = 758 to 1,099 ?mol/L) in patients with CAD and 824 ?mol/L (IQR?= 683 to 998 ?mol/L) in patients without CAD (p = 0.03). When considered with age, sex, and the number of conventional CAD risk factors, ACAT2-CE levels were associated with a 6.5% increased odds of having CAD per 10 ?mol/L increase in concentration. The addition of ACAT2-CE significantly improved the C-statistic (0.89 vs. 0.95, p = 0.0035) and IDI (0.15, p < 0.001) compared to the reduced model. In the subgroup of low-risk observation unit patients, the CE model had superior discrimination compared to the Diamond-Forrester classification (IDI = 0.403, p < 0.001).Plasma levels of ACAT2-CE have strong potential to predict a patient's likelihood of having CAD when considered in a clinical model but not when used alone. In turn, a clinical model containing ACAT2-CE could reduce the need for cardiac imaging after the exclusion of MI.
Project description:As adipose tissue is the major cholesterol storage organ and most of the intracellular cholesterol is distributed to lipid droplets (LDs), cholesterol homeostasis may have a role in the regulation of adipocyte size and function. ACATs catalyze the formation of cholesteryl ester (CE) from free cholesterol to modulate the cholesterol balance. Despite the well-documented role of ACATs in hypercholesterolemia, their role in LD development during adipogenesis remains elusive. Here, we identify ACATs as regulators of de novo lipogenesis and LD formation in murine 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Pharmacological inhibition of ACAT activity suppressed intracellular cholesterol and CE levels, and reduced expression of genes involved in cholesterol uptake and efflux. ACAT inhibition resulted in decreased de novo lipogenesis, as demonstrated by reduced maturation of SREBP1 and SREBP1-downstream lipogenic gene expression. Consistent with this observation, knockdown of either ACAT isoform reduced total adipocyte lipid content by approximately 40%. These results demonstrate that ACATs are required for storage ability of lipids and cholesterol in adipocytes.