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J Lipid Res. 2012 May;53(5):984-9. doi: 10.1194/jlr.P024810. Epub 2012 Mar 12.

Cellular cholesterol efflux and cholesterol loading capacity of serum: effects of LDL-apheresis.

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Department of Pharmacological and Biological Sciences and Applied Chemistries, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.


High LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) characterizes familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) and familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCH). LDL-apheresis, used in these patients to reduce LDL-C levels, has been shown to also affect HDL levels and composition. We studied LDL-apheresis effects on six FH and nine FCH subjects' serum capacity to modulate cellular cholesterol efflux, an index of HDL functionality, and to load macrophages with cholesterol. Serum cholesterol efflux capacity (CEC) and macrophage cholesterol loading capacity (CLC) were measured before, immediately after, and two days after LDL-apheresis. The procedure reduced total cholesterol (TC), LDL-C, and apoB plasma levels (-69%, -80% and -74%, respectively), parameters only partially restored two days later. HDL-C and apoA-I plasma levels, reduced after LDL-apheresis (-27% and -16%, respectively), were restored to almost normal levels two days later. LDL-apheresis reduced serum aqueous diffusion (AD) CEC, SR-BI-CEC, and ABCA1-CEC. AD and SR-BI were fully restored whereas ABCA1-CEC remained low two days later. Sera immediately and two days after LDL-apheresis had a lower CLC than pre-LDL-apheresis sera. In conclusion, LDL-apheresis transiently reduces HDL-C levels and serum CEC, but it also reduces also serum capacity to deliver cholesterol to macrophages. Despite a potentially negative effect on HDL levels and composition, LDL-apheresis may counteract foam cells formation.

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