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J Biol Chem. 2002 Dec 13;277(50):48508-13. Epub 2002 Oct 15.

Induction of the cholesterol transporter ABCA1 in central nervous system cells by liver X receptor agonists increases secreted Abeta levels.

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Alzheimer Research Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown 02129, USA.


The expression, function, and regulation of the cholesterol efflux molecule, ABCA1, has been extensively examined in peripheral tissues but only poorly studied in the brain. Brain cholesterol metabolism is of interest because several lines of evidence suggest that elevated cholesterol increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. We found a largely neuronal expression of ABCA1 in normal rat brain by in situ hybridization. ABCA1 message was dramatically up-regulated in neurons and glia in areas of damage by hippocampal AMPA lesion after 3-7 days. Immunoblot analysis demonstrated ABCA1 protein in cultured neuronal and glial cells, and expression was induced by ligands of the nuclear hormone receptors of the retinoid X receptor and liver X receptor family. ABCA1 was induced by treatment with retinoic acid and several oxysterols, including 22(R)-hydroxycholesterol and 24-hydroxycholesterol. Expression of an ABCA1-green fluorescent protein construct in neuroblastoma cells demonstrated fluorescence in perinuclear compartments and on the plasma membrane. Because the Abeta peptide is important in Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis, we examined whether ABCA1 induction altered Abeta levels. Treatment of neuroblastoma cells with retinoic acid and 22(R)-hydroxycholesterol caused significant increases in secreted Abeta40 (29%) and Abeta42 (65%). Treatment with a nonsteroidal liver X receptor ligand, TO-901317, similarly increased levels of secreted Abeta40 (25%) and Abeta42 (126%). The increase in secreted Abeta levels was reduced by RNAi blocking of ABCA1 expression. These data suggest that the cholesterol efflux molecule ABCA1 may also be involved in the secretion of the membrane-associated molecule, Abeta.

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