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Biochem J. 2005 May 1;387(Pt 3):779-88.

Generation and function of astroglial lipoproteins from Niemann-Pick type C1-deficient mice.

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Canadian Institutes of Health Research Group on the Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2S2.


NPC (Niemann-Pick type C) disease is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by defects in intracellular cholesterol trafficking, accumulation of cholesterol in the endosomal system and impaired cholesterol homoeostasis. Although these alterations appear to occur in all NPC1-deficient cell types, the consequences are most profound in the nervous system. Since glial cells are important mediators of brain cholesterol homoeostasis, we proposed that defective generation and/or function of lipoproteins released by glia might contribute to the neurological abnormalities associated with NPC disease. We found that, as in other cell types, Npc1-/- glia accumulate cholesterol intracellularly. We hypothesized that this sequestration of cholesterol in glia might restrict the availability of cholesterol for lipoprotein production. Cerebellar astroglia were cultured from a murine model of NPC disease to compare the lipoproteins generated by these cells and wild-type glia. The experiments demonstrate that the amount of cholesterol in glia-conditioned medium is not reduced by NPC1 deficiency. Similarly, cholesterol efflux to apo (apolipoprotein) A1 or glial expression of the transporter ATP-binding-cassette transporter A1 was not decreased by NPC1 deficiency. In addition, the ratio of apo E:cholesterol and the density distribution of lipoproteins in Npc1-/- and Npc1+/+ glia-conditioned medium are indistinguishable. Importantly, in a functional assay, apo E-containing lipoproteins generated by Npc1-/- and Npc1+/+ glia each stimulate axonal elongation of neurons by approx. 35%. On the basis of these observations, we speculate that the neuropathology characteristic of NPC disease can quite probably be ascribed to impaired processes within neurons in the brain rather than defective lipoprotein production by astroglia.

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