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Atherosclerosis. 2002 Mar;161(1):1-16.

HDL and arteriosclerosis: beyond reverse cholesterol transport.

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Institut für Klinische Chemie und Laboratoriumsmedizin, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Albert Schweitzer Str. 33, 48129 Münster, Germany.


The inverse correlation between serum levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease, the protection of susceptible animals from atherosclerosis by transgenic manipulation of HDL metabolism, and several potentially anti-atherogenic in vitro-properties have made HDL metabolism an interesting target for pharmacological intervention in atheroslcerosis. We have previously reviewed the concept of reverse cholesterol transport, which describes both the metabolism and the classic anti-atherogenic function of HDL (Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 20 2001 13). We here summarize the current understanding of additional biological, potentially anti-atherogenic properties of HDL. HDL inhibits the chemotaxis of monocytes, the adhesion of leukocytes to the endothelium, endothelial dysfunction and apoptosis, LDL oxidation, complement activation, platelet activation and factor X activation but also stimulates the proliferation of endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells, the synthesis of prostacyclin and natriuretic peptide C in endothelial cells, and the activation of proteins C and S. These anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, anti-aggregatory, anti-coagulant, and pro-fibrinolytic activities are exerted by different components of HDL, namley apolipoproteins, enzymes, and even specific phospholipids. This complexity further emphasizes that changes in the functionality of HDL rather than changes of plasma HDL-cholesterol levels determine the anti-atherogenicity of therapeutic alterations of HDL metabolism.

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