AGR2-induced cholesterol synthesis drives lovastatin resistance that is overcome by combination therapy with allicin
Anterior gradient 2 (AGR2), a protein disulfide isomerase (PDI), is a multifunctional protein under physiological and pathological conditions. In this study we investigated the roles of AGR2 in regulating cholesterol biogenesis, lipid-lowering efficiency of lovastatin as well as in protection against hypercholesterolemia/statin-induced liver injury. We showed that AGR2 knockout significantly decreased hepatic and serum total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in mice with whole-body or hepatocyte-specific Agr2-null mutant, compared with the levels in their wild-type littermates fed a normal chow diet (NCD) or high-fat diet (HFD). In contrast, mice with AGR2 overexpression (Agr2/Tg) exhibited an increased cholesterol level. Mechanistic studies revealed that AGR2 affected cholesterol biogenesis via activation of AKT/sterol regulatory element-binding protein-2 (SREBP2), to some extent, in a PDI motif-dependent manner. Moreover, elevated AGR2 led to a significant decrease in the lipid-lowering efficacy of lovastatin (10 mg· kg−1· d−1, ip, for 2 weeks) in mice with hypercholesterolemia (hyperCho), which was validated by results obtained from clinical samples in statin-treated patients. We showed that lovastatin had limited effect on AGR2 expression, but AGR2 was inducible in Agr2/Tg mice fed a HFD. Further investigations demonstrated that drug-induced liver toxicity and inflammatory reactions were alleviated in hypercholesterolemic Agr2/Tg mice, suggesting the dual functions of AGR2 in lipid management and hyperCho/statin-induced liver injury. Importantly, the AGR2-reduced lipid-lowering efficacy of lovastatin was attenuated, at least partially, by co-administration of a sulfhydryl-reactive compound allicin (20 mg· kg−1· d−1, ip, for 2 weeks). These results demonstrate a novel role of AGR2 in cholesterol metabolism, drug resistance and liver protection, suggesting AGR2 as a potential predictor for selection of lipid-lowering drugs in clinic.