Spirulina platensis and phycocyanobilin activate atheroprotective heme oxygenase-1: a possible implication for atherogenesis
Spirulina platensis, a water blue-green alga, has been associated with potent biological effects, which might have important relevance in atheroprotection. We investigated whether S. platensis or phycocyanobilin (PCB), its tetrapyrrolic chromophore, can activate atheroprotective heme oxygenase-1 (Hmox1), a key enzyme in the heme catabolic pathway responsible for generation of a potent antioxidant bilirubin, in endothelial cells and in a mouse model of atherosclerosis. In vitro experiments were performed on EA.hy926 endothelial cells exposed to extracts of S. platensis or PCB. In vivo studies were performed on ApoE-deficient mice fed a cholesterol diet and S. platensis. The effect of these treatments on Hmox1, as well as other markers of oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction, was then investigated. Both S. platensis and PCB markedly upregulated Hmox1 in vitro, and a substantial overexpression of Hmox1 was found in aortic atherosclerotic lesions of ApoE-deficient mice fed S. platensis. In addition, S. platensis treatment led to a significant increase in Hmox1 promoter activity in the spleens of Hmox-luc transgenic mice. Furthermore, both S. platensis and PCB were able to modulate important markers of oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction, such as eNOS, p22 NADPH oxidase subunit, and/or VCAM-1. Both S. platensis and PCB activate atheroprotective HMOX1 in endothelial cells and S. platensis increased the expression of Hmox1 in aortic atherosclerotic lesions in ApoE-deficient mice, and also in Hmox-luc transgenic mice beyond the lipid lowering effect. Therefore, activation of HMOX1 and the heme catabolic pathway may represent an important mechanism of this food supplement for the reduction of atherosclerotic disease.