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Am J Pathol. 2000 Jan;156(1):227-36.

Localization of human acyl-coenzyme A: cholesterol acyltransferase-1 (ACAT-1) in macrophages and in various tissues.

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Second Department of Pathology, Kumamoto University School of Medicine, Kumamoto, Japan.


To investigate the distribution of acyl-coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase-1 (ACAT-1) in various human tissues, we examined tissues of autopsy cases immunohistochemically. ACAT-1 was demonstrated in macrophages, antigen-presenting cells, steroid hormone-producing cells, neurons, cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, mesothelial cells, epithelial cells of the urinary tracts, thyroid follicles, renal tubules, pituitary, prostatic, and bronchial glands, alveolar and intestinal epithelial cells, pancreatic acinar cells, and hepatocytes. These findings showed that ACAT-1 is present in a variety of human tissues examined. The immunoreactivities are particularly prominent in the macrophages, steroid hormone-producing cells, followed by hepatocytes, and intestinal epithelia. In cultured human macrophages, immunoelectron microscopy revealed that ACAT-1 was located mainly in the tubular rough endoplasmic reticulum; immunoblot analysis showed that the ACAT-1 protein content did not change with or without cholesterol loading; however, on cholesterol loading, about 30 to 40% of the total immunoreactivity appeared in small-sized vesicles. These vesicles were also enriched in 78-kd glucose-regulated protein (GRP 78), a specific marker for the endoplasmic reticulum. Immunofluorescent microscopy demonstrated extensive colocalization of ACAT-1 and GRP 78 signals in both the tubular and vesicular endoplasmic reticulum before and after cholesterol loading. These results raise the possibility that foam cell formation may activate an endoplasmic reticulum vesiculation process, producing vesicles enriched in the ACAT-1 protein.

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