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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2000 Jan;20(1):70-9.

The ACAT inhibitor avasimibe reduces macrophages and matrix metalloproteinase expression in atherosclerotic lesions of hypercholesterolemic rabbits.

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  • 1Departments of Cardiovascular Therapeutics , Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research, Division of Warner-Lambert, 2800 Plymouth Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA.


Given the significance of cholesteryl ester (CE) accumulation in macrophage foam cell formation, we hypothesized that inhibitors of acyl-CoA:cholesterol O-acyltransferase (ACAT) would produce a histologically stable lesion by limiting macrophage enrichment and thereby a source of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Male New Zealand White rabbits were sequentially fed a cholesterol/fat diet for 9 weeks, a fat-only diet for 6 weeks, and 25 mg/kg avasimibe for 7 to 8 weeks. Avasimibe had no effect on plasma total cholesterol exposure. Plasma avasimibe maximal concentration and 24-hour area-under-the-curve levels were 178 ng/mL and 2525 ng. h/mL, respectively, after 7 weeks of treatment with 25 mg/kg avasimibe. The median inhibitory concentration against human monocyte-macrophage ACAT was 12 ng/mL when determined in the absence of albumin, and aortic arch avasimibe levels were 25 ng/g of tissue wet weight. Avasimibe reduced thoracic aortic and iliac-femoral CE content by 39%, the extent of thoracic aortic lesions by 41%, aortic arch cross-sectional lesions area by 35%, and monocyte-macrophage area by 27%. The reduction in monocyte-macrophage area reflected a change in cell number and not cell size. In the iliac-femoral artery, avasimibe decreased monocyte-macrophage content by 77% and reduced the macrophage-to-lesion ratio from 0.16 to 0.05. Within the aortic arch, the catalytic activity of latent and active MMP-9 was reduced by 65% and 33%, respectively; latent and active MMP-1 and MMP-3 activity measured collectively was decreased by 52% and 60%, respectively, and MMP-2 was unchanged. Aortic arch MMP-9, tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1, and TIMP-2 mRNA levels were reduced 29% to 39%, and MMP-2 mRNA levels increased. We conclude that the bioavailable ACAT inhibitor avasimibe can directly limit macrophage accumulation, resulting in the histological appearance of mainly fibromuscular lesions, and can potentially stabilize preestablished atherosclerotic lesions by reducing MMP expression within the lesion.

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