BACKGROUND: Oxidized phospholipids play a key role in the atherogenic potential of lipoprotein(a) (Lp[a]); however, Lp(a) is a complex particle that warrants research into additional proinflammatory mediators. We hypothesized that additional Lp(a)-associated lipids contribute to the atherogenicity of Lp(a).

METHODS: Untargeted lipidomics was performed on plasma and isolated lipoprotein fractions. The atherogenicity of the observed Lp(a)-associated lipids was tested ex vivo in primary human monocytes by RNA sequencing, ELISA, Western blot, and transendothelial migratory assays. Using immunofluorescence staining and single-cell RNA sequencing, the phenotype of macrophages was investigated in human atherosclerotic lesions.

RESULTS: Compared with healthy individuals with low/normal Lp(a) levels (median, 7 mg/dL [18 nmol/L]; n=13), individuals with elevated Lp(a) levels (median, 87 mg/dL [218 nmol/L]; n=12) demonstrated an increase in lipid species, particularly diacylglycerols (DGs) and lysophosphatidic acid (LPA). DG and the LPA precursor lysophosphatidylcholine were enriched in the Lp(a) fraction. Ex vivo stimulation with DG(40:6) demonstrated a significant upregulation in proinflammatory pathways related to leukocyte migration, chemotaxis, NF-κB (nuclear factor kappa B) signaling, and cytokine production. Functional assessment showed a dose-dependent increase in the secretion of IL (interleukin)-6, IL-8, and IL-1β after DG(40:6) and DG(38:4) stimulation, which was, in part, mediated via the NLRP3 (NOD [nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain]-like receptor family pyrin domain containing 3) inflammasome. Conversely, LPA-stimulated monocytes did not exhibit an inflammatory phenotype. Furthermore, activation of monocytes by DGs and LPA increased their transendothelial migratory capacity. Human atherosclerotic plaques from patients with high Lp(a) levels demonstrated colocalization of Lp(a) with M1 macrophages, and an enrichment of CD68 +IL-18 +TLR4 + (toll-like receptor) TREM2 + (triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells) resident macrophages and CD68 +CASP1 + (caspase) IL-1B +SELL + (selectin L) inflammatory macrophages compared with patients with low Lp(a). Finally, potent Lp(a)-lowering treatment (pelacarsen) resulted in a reduction in specific circulating DG lipid subspecies in patients with cardiovascular disease with elevated Lp(a) levels (median, 82 mg/dL [205 nmol/L]).

CONCLUSIONS: Lp(a)-associated DGs and LPA have a potential role in Lp(a)-induced monocyte inflammation by increasing cytokine secretion and monocyte transendothelial migration. This DG-induced inflammation is, in part, NLRP3 inflammasome dependent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-740
Number of pages21
JournalArteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • diglycerides
  • inflammation
  • lipidomics
  • lipoprotein(a)
  • monocytes

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