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J Biol Chem. 2000 Oct 20;275(42):33176-83.

Plasmin-mediated macrophage reversal of low density lipoprotein aggregation.

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  • 1Section of Experimental Atherosclerosis, NHLBI, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Evidence suggests that aggregated low density lipoprotein (AgLDL) accumulates in atherosclerotic lesions. Previously, we showed that AgLDL induces and enters surface-connected compartments (SCC) in human monocyte-derived macrophages by a process we have named patocytosis. Most AgLDL taken up by these macrophages in the absence of serum is stored in SCC and remains undegraded. We now show that macrophages released AgLDL (prepared by vortexing or treatment with phospholipase C or sphingomyelinase) from their SCC when exposed to 10% human lipoprotein-deficient serum (LPDS). Macrophages also took up AgLDL in the presence of LPDS, but subsequently released it. In both cases, the released AgLDL was disaggregated. Although the AgLDL that macrophages took up could not pass through a 0.45-micrometer filter, >60% of AgLDL could pass this filter after release from the macrophages. Disaggregation of AgLDL was verified by gel-filtration chromatography and electron microscopy that also showed particles larger than LDL, reflecting fusion of LDL that aggregates. The factor in serum that mediated AgLDL release and disaggregation was plasmin generated from plasminogen by macrophage urokinase plasminogen activator. AgLDL release was decreased >90% by inhibitors of plasmin (epsilon-amino caproic acid and anti-plasminogen mAb), and also by inhibitors of urokinase plasminogen activator (plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 and anti-urokinase plasminogen activator mAb). Moreover, plasminogen could substitute for LPDS and produce similar macrophage release and disaggregation of AgLDL. Because only plasmin bound to the macrophage surface is protected from serum plasmin inhibitors, interaction of AgLDL with macrophages was necessary for reversal of its aggregation by LPDS. The released disaggregated LDL particles were competent to stimulate LDL receptor-mediated endocytosis in cultured fibroblasts. Macrophage-mediated disaggregation of aggregated and fused LDL is a mechanism for transforming LDL into lipoprotein structures size-consistent with lipid particles found in atherosclerotic lesions.

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