Apolipoprotein L6, induced in atherosclerotic lesions, promotes apoptosis and blocks Beclin 1-dependent autophagy in atherosclerotic cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • Inflammatory cytokine-regulated apoptosis and autophagy play pivotal roles in plaque rupture and thrombosis of atherosclerotic lesions. However, the molecular interplay between apoptosis and autophagy in vascular cells has not been investigated. Our prior study showed that human apolipoprotein L6 (ApoL6), a pro-apoptotic BH3-only member of the Bcl-2 family, was one of the downstream targets of interferon-γ (INFγ), which sensitizes atherosclerotic lesion-derived cells (LDCs) to Fas-induced apoptosis. To investigate whether ApoL6 plays a causal role in atherosclerotic apoptosis and autophagy, in this study, we demonstrate that IFNγ treatment itself strongly induces ApoL6, and ApoL6 is highly expressed and partially co-localized with activated caspase 3 in activated smooth muscle cells in atherosclerotic lesions. In addition, overexpression of ApoL6 promotes reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, caspase activation, and subsequent apoptosis, which can be blocked by pan caspase inhibitor and ROS scavenger. Knockdown of ApoL6 expression by siApoL6 suppresses INFγ- and Fas-mediated apoptosis. Further, ApoL6 binds Bcl-X(L), one of the most abundant anti-death proteins in LDCs. Interestingly, forced ApoL6 expression in LDCs induces degradation of Beclin 1, accumulation of p62, and subsequent attenuation of LC3-II formation and translocation and thus autophagy, whereas siApoL6 treatment reverts the phenotype. Taken together, our results suggest that ApoL6 regulates both apoptosis and autophagy in SMCs. IFNγ-initiated, ApoL6-induced apoptosis in vascular cells may be an important factor causing plaque instability and a potential therapeutic target for treating atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

publication date

  • August 2011