Rap1 induces cytokine production in pro-inflammatory macrophages through NFκB signaling and is highly expressed in human atherosclerotic lesions

Yin Cai, Galina K. Sukhova, Hoi Kin Wong, Aimin Xu, Vinay Tergaonkar, Paul M. Vanhoutte, Eva Hoi Ching Tang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Repressor activator protein 1 (Rap1) is essential for maintaining telomere length and structural integrity, but it also exerts other non-telomeric functions. The present study tested the hypothesis that Rap1 is released into the cytoplasm and induces production of pro-inflammatory cytokines via nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB) signaling in macrophages, a cell type involved in the development and progression of atherosclerotic lesions. Western blotting analysis confirmed that Rap1 was present in the cytoplasm of differentiated human monocytic leukemia cells (THP-1, a macrophage-like cell line). Co-immunoprecipitation assay revealed a direct interaction between Rap1 and I kappa B kinase (IKK). Knockdown of Rap1 suppressed lipopolysaccharide-mediated activation of NFκB, and phosphorylation of inhibitor of kappa B α (IκBα) and p65 in THP-1 macrophages. The reduction of NFκB activity was paralleled by a decreased production of NFκB-dependent pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increased expression of IκBκ (native NFκB inhibitor) in various macrophage models with pro-inflammatory phenotype, including THP-1, mouse peritoneal macrophages and bone marrow-derived M1 macrophages. These changes were observed selectively in pro-inflammatory macrophages but not in bone marrow-derived M2 macrophages (with an anti-inflammatory phenotype), mouse lung endothelial cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells or human aortic smooth muscle cells. Immunostaining revealed that Rap1 was localized mainly in macrophage-rich areas in human atherosclerotic plaques and that the presence of Rap1 was positively correlated with the advancement of the disease process. In pro-inflammatory macrophages, Rap1 promotes cytokine production via NFκB activation favoring a pro-inflammatory environment which may contribute to the development and progression of atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3580-3592
Number of pages13
JournalCell Cycle
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Macrophages
  • NFκB
  • Pro-inflammatory cytokines
  • Repressor activator protein 1
  • Signal transduction
  • Telomeric protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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