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J Biol Chem. 2002 Jun 28;277(26):23525-33. Epub 2002 Apr 25.

Hypercholesterolemia promotes a CD36-dependent and endothelial nitric-oxide synthase-mediated vascular dysfunction.

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  • 1University of Kentucky Medical School, Department of Physiology, Lexington, Kentucky 40536, USA.


Numerous studies have implicated either the presence or absence of CD36 in the development of hypertension. In addition, hypercholesterolemia is associated with the loss of nitric oxide-induced vasodilation and the subsequent increase in blood pressure. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that diet-induced hypercholesterolemia promotes the disruption of agonist-stimulated nitric oxide generation and vasodilation in a CD36-dependent manner. To test this, C57BL/6, apoE null, CD36 null, and apoE/CD36 null mice were maintained on chow or high fat diets. In contrast to apoE null mice fed a chow diet, apoE null mice fed a high fat diet did not respond to acetylcholine with a decrease in blood pressure. Caveolae isolated from in vivo vessels did not contain endothelial nitric-oxide synthase and were depleted of cholesterol. Age-matched apoE/CD36 null mice fed a chow or high fat diet responded to acetylcholine with a decrease in blood pressure. The mechanism underlying the vascular dysfunction was reversible because vessels isolated from apoE null high fat-fed mice regained responsiveness to acetylcholine when incubated with plasma obtained from chow-fed mice. Further analysis demonstrated that the plasma low density lipoprotein fraction was responsible for depleting caveolae of cholesterol, removing endothelial nitric-oxide synthase from caveolae, and preventing nitric oxide production. In addition, the pharmacological removal of caveola cholesterol with cyclodextrin mimicked the effects caused by the low density lipoprotein fraction. We conclude that the ablation of CD36 prevented the negative impact of hypercholesterolemia on agonist-stimulated nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation in apoE null mice. These studies provide a direct link between CD36 and the early events that underlie hypercholesterolemia-mediated hypertension and mechanistic linkages between CD36 function, nitric-oxide synthase activation, caveolae integrity, and blood pressure regulation.

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