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Nanotherapeutics Containing Lithocholic Acid-Based Amphiphilic Scorpion-Like Macromolecules Reduce In Vitro Inflammation in Macrophages: Implications for Atherosclerosis


Previously-designed amphiphilic scorpion-like macromolecule (AScM) nanoparticles (NPs) showed elevated potency to counteract oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) uptake in atherosclerotic macrophages, but failed to ameliorate oxLDL-induced inflammation. We designed a new class of composite AScMs incorporating lithocholic acid (LCA), a natural agonist for the TGR5 receptor that is known to counteract atherosclerotic inflammation, with two complementary goals: to simultaneously decrease lipid uptake and inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion by macrophages. LCA was conjugated to AScMs for favorable interaction with TGR5 and was also hydrophobically modified to enable encapsulation in the core of AScM-based NPs. Conjugates were formulated into negatively charged NPs with different core/shell combinations, inspired by the negative charge on oxLDL to enable competitive interaction with scavenger receptors (SRs). NPs with LCA-containing shells exhibited reduced sizes, and all NPs lowered oxLDL uptake to <30% of untreated, human derived macrophages in vitro, while slightly downregulating SR expression. Pro-inflammatory cytokine expression, including IL-1β, IL-8, and IL-10, is known to be modulated by TGR5, and was dependent on NP composition, with LCA-modified cores downregulating inflammation. Our studies indicate that LCA-conjugated AScM NPs offer a unique approach to minimize atherogenesis and counteract inflammation.

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