Lipotoxicity is implicated in the pathogenesis of obesity-related inflammatory complications by promoting macrophage infiltration and activation. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and adipocyte fatty acid binding protein (A-FABP) play key roles in obesity and mediate inflammatory activity through similar signaling pathways. However, little is known about their interplay in lipid-induced inflammatory responses. Here, we showed that prolonged treatment of palmitic acid (PA) increased ER stress and expression of A-FABP, which was accompanied by reduced autophagic flux in macrophages. Over-expression of A-FABP impaired PA-induced autophagy associating with enhanced ER stress and pro-inflammatory cytokine production, while genetic ablation or pharmacological inhibition of A-FABP reversed the conditions. PA-induced expression of autophagy-related protein (Atg)7 was attenuated in A-FABP over-expressed macrophages, but was elevated in A-FABP-deficient macrophages. Mechanistically, A-FABP potentiated the effects of PA by inhibition of Janus Kinase (JAK)2 activity, thus diminished PA-induced Atg7 expression contributing to impaired autophagy and further augmentation of ER stress. These findings suggest that A-FABP acts as autophagy inhibitor to instigate toxic lipids-induced ER stress through inhibition of JAK2-dependent autophagy, which in turn triggers inflammatory responses in macrophages. A-FABP-JAK2 axis may represent an important pathological pathway contributing to obesity-related inflammatory diseases.
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