Ractopamine, a synthetic β-adrenoreceptor agonist, is used as an animal feed additive to increase food conversion efficiency and accelerate lean mass accretion in farmed animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration claimed that ingesting products containing ractopamine residues at legal dosages might not cause short-term harm to human health. However, the effect of ractopamine on chronic inflammatory diseases and atherosclerosis is unclear. Therefore, we investigated the effects of ractopamine on atherosclerosis and its action mechanism in apolipoprotein E-null (apoe−/−) mice and human endothelial cells (ECs) and macrophages. Daily treatment with ractopamine for four weeks increased the body weight and the weight of brown adipose tissues and gastrocnemius muscles. However, it decreased the weight of white adipose tissues in apoe−/− mice. Additionally, ractopamine exacerbated hyperlipidemia and systemic inflammation, deregulated aortic cholesterol metabolism and inflammation, and accelerated atherosclerosis. In ECs, ractopamine treatment induced endothelial dysfunction and increased monocyte adhesion and transmigration across ECs. In macrophages, ractopamine dysregulated cholesterol metabolism by increasing oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) internalization and decreasing reverse cholesterol transporters, increasing oxLDL-induced lipid accumulation. Collectively, our findings revealed that ractopamine induces EC dysfunction and deregulated cholesterol metabolism of macrophages, which ultimately accelerates atherosclerosis progression.
- Endothelial dysfunction
- Foam cell formation