Immunometabolic function of cholesterol in cardiovascular disease and beyond

Yvan-Charvet L, Bonacina F, Guinamard RR, Norata GD

Cardiovasc. Res. 2019 Jul;115(9):1393-1407


PMID: 31095280

Inflammation represents the driving feature of many diseases, including atherosclerosis, cancer, autoimmunity and infections. It is now established that metabolic processes shape a proper immune response and within this context the alteration in cellular cholesterol homeostasis has emerged as a culprit of many metabolic abnormalities observed in chronic inflammatory diseases. Cholesterol accumulation supports the inflammatory response of myeloid cells (i.e. augmentation of toll-like receptor signalling, inflammasome activation, and production of monocytes and neutrophils) which is beneficial in the response to infections, but worsens diseases associated with chronic metabolic inflammation including atherosclerosis. In addition to the innate immune system, cells of adaptive immunity, upon activation, have also been shown to undergo a reprogramming of cellular cholesterol metabolism, which results in the amplification of inflammatory responses. Aim of this review is to discuss (i) the molecular mechanisms linking cellular cholesterol metabolism to specific immune functions; (ii) how cellular cholesterol accumulation sustains chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis; (iii) the immunometabolic profile of patients with defects of genes affecting cholesterol metabolism including familial hypercholesterolaemia, cholesteryl ester storage disease, Niemann-Pick type C, and immunoglobulin D syndrome/mevalonate kinase deficiency. Available data indicate that cholesterol immunometabolism plays a key role in directing immune cells function and set the stage for investigating the repurposing of existing ‘metabolic’ drugs to modulate the immune response.