Role of acyl-coenzyme A: cholesterol transferase 1 (ACAT1) in retinal neovascularization

Syed A.H. Zaidi, Tahira Lemtalsi, Zhimin Xu, Isabella Santana, Porsche Sandow, Leila Labazi, Robert W. Caldwell, Ruth B. Caldwell, Modesto A. Rojas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: We have investigated the efficacy of a new strategy to limit pathological retinal neovascularization (RNV) during ischemic retinopathy by targeting the cholesterol metabolizing enzyme acyl-coenzyme A: cholesterol transferase 1 (ACAT1). Dyslipidemia and cholesterol accumulation have been strongly implicated in promoting subretinal NV. However, little is known about the role of cholesterol metabolism in RNV. Here, we tested the effects of inhibiting ACAT1 on pathological RNV in the mouse model of oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR). Methods: In vivo studies used knockout mice that lack the receptor for LDL cholesterol (LDLR−/−) and wild-type mice. The wild-type mice were treated with a specific inhibitor of ACAT1, K604 (10 mg/kg, i.p) or vehicle (PBS) during OIR. In vitro studies used human microglia exposed to oxygen–glucose deprivation (OGD) and treated with the ACAT1 inhibitor (1 μM) or PBS. Results: Analysis of OIR retinas showed that increased expression of inflammatory mediators and pathological RNV were associated with significant increases in expression of the LDLR, increased accumulation of neutral lipids, and formation of toxic levels of cholesterol ester (CE). Deletion of the LDLR completely blocked OIR-induced RNV and significantly reduced the AVA. The OIR-induced increase in CE formation was accompanied by significant increases in expression of ACAT1, VEGF and inflammatory factors (TREM1 and MCSF) (p < 0.05). ACAT1 was co-localized with TREM1, MCSF, and macrophage/microglia makers (F4/80 and Iba1) in areas of RNV. Treatment with K604 prevented retinal accumulation of neutral lipids and CE formation, inhibited RNV, and decreased the AVA as compared to controls (p < 0.05). The treatment also blocked upregulation of LDLR, ACAT1, TREM1, MCSF, and inflammatory cytokines but did not alter VEGF expression. K604 treatment of microglia cells also blocked the effects of OGD in increasing expression of ACAT1, TREM1, and MCSF without altering VEGF expression. Conclusions: OIR-induced RNV is closely associated with increases in lipid accumulation and CE formation along with increased expression of LDLR, ACAT1, TREM1, and MCSF. Inhibiting ACAT1 blocked these effects and limited RNV independently of alterations in VEGF expression. This pathway offers a novel strategy to limit vascular injury during ischemic retinopathy. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • ACAT1
  • Cholesterol ester
  • Cytokines
  • Hypoxia
  • Inflammation
  • LDL cholesterol
  • Neovascularization
  • Oxygen-induced retinopathy
  • Retinopathy of prematurity
  • TREM1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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