Monocyte activation plays an important role in diabetic complications such as diabetic retinopathy (DR). However, the regulation of monocyte activation in diabetes remains elusive. Fenofibrate, an agonist of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPARα), has shown robust therapeutic effects on DR in patients with type 2 diabetes. Here we found that PPARα levels were significantly downregulated in monocytes from patients with diabetes and animal models, correlating with monocyte activation. Fenofibrate attenuated monocyte activation in diabetes, while PPARα knockout alone induced monocyte activation. Furthermore, monocyte-specific PPARα overexpression ameliorated, while monocyte-specific PPARα knockout aggravated monocyte activation in diabetes. PPARα knockout impaired mitochondrial function while also increasing glycolysis in monocytes. PPARα knockout increased cytosolic mitochondrial DNA release and activation of the cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS)–stimulator of interferon genes (STING) pathway in monocytes under diabetic conditions. STING knockout or STING inhibitor attenuated monocyte activation induced by diabetes or by PPARα knockout. These observations suggest that PPARα negatively regulates monocyte activation through metabolic reprogramming and interaction with the cGAS-STING pathway.

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L.D. and R.C. contributed equally to this work.

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