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Nicotinic acid (niacin) induces beneficial changes in serum lipoproteins and has been associated with beneficial cardiovascular effects. Niacin reduces low-density lipoprotein, increases high-density lipoprotein, and decreases triglycerides. It is well established that activation of the seven-transmembrane Gi-coupled receptor GPR109A on Langerhans cells results in release of prostaglandin D2, which mediates the well-known flushing side effect of niacin. Niacin activation of GPR109A on adipocytes also mediates the transient reduction of plasma free fatty acid (FFA) levels characteristic of niacin, which has been long hypothesized to be the mechanism underlying the changes in the serum lipid profile. We tested this “FFA hypothesis” and the hypothesis that niacin lipid efficacy is mediated via GPR109A by dosing mice lacking GPR109A with niacin and testing two novel, full GPR109A agonists, MK-1903 and SCH900271, in three human clinical trials. In mice, the absence of GPR109A had no effect on niacin’s lipid efficacy despite complete abrogation of the anti-lipolytic effect. Both MK-1903 and SCH900271 lowered FFAs acutely in humans; however, neither had the expected effects on serum lipids. Chronic FFA suppression was not sustainable via GPR109A agonism with niacin, MK-1903, or SCH900271. We conclude that the GPR109A receptor does not mediate niacin’s lipid efficacy, challenging the long-standing FFA hypothesis.
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