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J Biol Chem. 2007 Mar 16;282(11):7817-24. Epub 2007 Jan 18.

Apolipoprotein E4 in macrophages enhances atherogenesis in a low density lipoprotein receptor-dependent manner.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7525, USA.


Apolipoprotein E (apoE) and the low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLr) are well recognized determinants of atherosclerosis. In addition to hepatocytes, where both are highly expressed and contribute to plasma lipoprotein clearance, they are expressed in vascular cells and macrophages. In this study, we examined the effects of human apoE isoforms and LDLr levels in atherogenic pathways in primary macrophages ex vivo and atherosclerosis development after bone marrow transfer in vivo using mice expressing human apoE isoforms and different levels of LDLr expression. Increases in LDLr expression significantly increased cholesterol delivery into macrophages in culture, and the effects were more prominent with lipoproteins containing apoE4 than those containing apoE3. Conversely, increased LDLr expression reduced cholesterol efflux in macrophages expressing apoE4 but not in macrophages expressing apoE3. Furthermore, apoE3 protected VLDL from oxidation in vitro more than did apoE4. In LDLr-deficient mice expressing the human apoE4 isoform, Apoe4/4 Ldlr-/-, the replacement of bone marrow cells with those expressing LDLr increased atherosclerotic lesions in a dose-dependent manner compared with mice transplanted with cells having no LDLr. In contrast, atherosclerosis in Apoe3/3 Ldlr-/- mice, expressing the human apoE3 isoform, did not differ by the levels of macrophage LDLr expression. Our results demonstrate that apoE4, but not apoE3, in macrophages enhances atherosclerotic plaque development in mice in an LDLr-dependent manner and suggests that this interaction may contribute to the association of apoE4 with an increased cardiovascular risk in humans.

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