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Rap1 induces cytokine production in pro-inflammatory macrophages through NFκB signaling and is highly expressed in human atherosclerotic lesions.

Authors: Yin Y. Cai, Galina K GK. Sukhova, Hoi Kin HK. Wong, Aimin A. Xu, Vinay V. Tergaonkar, Paul M PM. Vanhoutte, Eva Hoi Ching EH. Tang
Published: 12/15/2015, Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)


Repressor activator protein 1 (Rap1) is essential for maintaining telomere length and structural integrity, but it also exerts other non-telomeric functions. The present study tested the hypothesis that Rap1 is released into the cytoplasm and induces production of pro-inflammatory cytokines via nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB) signaling in macrophages, a cell type involved in the development and progression of atherosclerotic lesions. Western blotting analysis confirmed that Rap1 was present in the cytoplasm of differentiated human monocytic leukemia cells (THP-1, a macrophage-like cell line). Co-immunoprecipitation assay revealed a direct interaction between Rap1 and I kappa B kinase (IKK). Knockdown of Rap1 suppressed lipopolysaccharide-mediated activation of NFκB, and phosphorylation of inhibitor of kappa B α (IκBα) and p65 in THP-1 macrophages. The reduction of NFκB activity was paralleled by a decreased production of NFκB-dependent pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increased expression of IκBα (native NFκB inhibitor) in various macrophage models with pro-inflammatory phenotype, including THP-1, mouse peritoneal macrophages and bone marrow-derived M1 macrophages. These changes were observed selectively in pro-inflammatory macrophages but not in bone marrow-derived M2 macrophages (with an anti-inflammatory phenotype), mouse lung endothelial cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells or human aortic smooth muscle cells. Immunostaining revealed that Rap1 was localized mainly in macrophage-rich areas in human atherosclerotic plaques and that the presence of Rap1 was positively correlated with the advancement of the disease process. In pro-inflammatory macrophages, Rap1 promotes cytokine production via NFκB activation favoring a pro-inflammatory environment which may contribute to the development and progression of atherosclerosis.

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