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Am J Cardiol. 2003 Aug 21;92(4B):10K-16K.

Clinical significance of high-density lipoproteins and the development of atherosclerosis: focus on the role of the adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette protein A1 transporter.

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  • 1Molecular Disease Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20894, USA.


Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol constitute a risk factor for coronary artery disease, and there is evidence that increasing HDL cholesterol levels reduces cardiovascular risk. The phenotype of low HDL cholesterol with or without elevated triglycerides is at least as common in patients hospitalized for cardiovascular disease as is hypercholesterolemia, and it is characteristic of diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, conditions associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Recent studies have elucidated mechanisms by which HDL acts to reduce cardiovascular risk, bolstering the rationale for targeting of HDL in lipid-modifying therapy. In particular, HDL (1) carries excess cholesterol from peripheral cells to the liver for removal in the process termed reverse cholesterol transport, (2) reduces oxidative modification of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and (3) inhibits cytokine-induced expression of cellular adhesion molecules on endothelial cells. Studies of the newly described adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette protein A1 (ABCA1) transporter have established a crucial role for this transporter in modulating the levels of plasma HDL and intracellular cholesterol in the liver as well as in peripheral cells. Elevated levels of intracellular cholesterol stimulate the liver X receptor pathway, enhancing the expression of ABCA1, which increases intracellular trafficking of excess cholesterol to the cell surface for interaction with lipid-poor apolipoprotein A-I to form nascent HDL. Nascent HDL facilitates the removal of additional excess cellular cholesterol, which is esterified by lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase with conversion of the nascent HDL to mature spherical HDL. Overexpression of ABCA1 in mice on a regular chow or Western diet results in a marked increase in plasma HDL, increased LDL, and increased transport of cholesterol to the liver. On a high cholesterol/cholate diet, transgenic mice overexpressing ABCA1 have increased HDL, reduced LDL, increased HDL-mediated cholesterol flux to the liver, and reduced atherosclerosis. Ongoing investigation of mechanisms by which HDL acts to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis will provide several new targets for the development of drugs to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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