Quercetin up-regulates expressions of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ, liver X receptor α, and ATP binding cassette transporter A1 genes and increases cholesterol efflux in human macrophage cell line

Seung Min Lee, Jiyoung Moon, Yoonsu Cho, Ji Hyung Chung, Min-Jeong Shin

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Cholesterol-laden macrophages trigger accumulation of foam cells and increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis. We hypothesized that quercetin could lower the content of cholesterol in macrophages by regulating the expression of the ATP binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) gene in differentiated human acute monocyte leukemia cell line (THP-1) cells and thereby reducing the chance of forming foam cells. Quercetin, in concentrations up to 30 μM, was not cytotoxic to differentiated THP-1 cells. Quercetin up-regulated both ABCA1 messenger RNA and protein expression in differentiated THP-1 cells, and its maximum effects were demonstrated at 0.3 μM for 4 to 8 hours in incubation. In addition, quercetin increased protein levels of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPAR. γ) and liver X receptor α (LXR. α) within 2 hours of treatment. Because PPAR. γ and LXR. α are important transcriptional factors for ABCA1, quercetin-induced up-regulation of ABCA1 may be mediated by increased expression levels of the PPAR. γ and LXR. α genes. Furthermore, quercetin-enhanced cholesterol efflux from differentiated THP-1 cells to both high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and apolipoprotein A1. Quercetin at the dose of 0.15 μM elevated the cholesterol efflux only for HDL. At the dose of 0.3 μM, quercetin demonstrated effects both on HDL and apolipoprotein A1. Our data demonstrated that quercetin increased the expressions of PPAR. γ, LXR. α, and ABCA1 genes and cholesterol efflux from THP-1 macrophages. Quercetin-induced expression of PPAR. γ and LXR. α might subsequently affect up-regulation of their target gene ABCA1. Taken together, ingestion of quercetin or quercetin-rich foods could be an effective way to improve cholesterol efflux from macrophages, which would contribute to lowering the risk of atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-143
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Feb 1



  • ABCA1
  • ApoA1
  • HDL
  • LXRα
  • PPARγ
  • Quercetin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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