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J Lipid Res. 2013 Mar;54(3):671-6. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M031336. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

Serum albumin acts as a shuttle to enhance cholesterol efflux from cells.

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Department of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


An important mechanism contributing to cell cholesterol efflux is aqueous transfer in which cholesterol diffuses from cells into the aqueous phase and becomes incorporated into an acceptor particle. Some compounds can enhance diffusion by acting as shuttles transferring cholesterol to cholesterol acceptors, which act as cholesterol sinks. We have examined whether particles in serum can enhance cholesterol efflux by acting as shuttles. This task was accomplished by incubating radiolabeled J774 cells with increasing concentrations of lipoprotein-depleted sera (LPDS) or components present in serum as shuttles and a constant amount of LDL, small unilamellar vesicles, or red blood cells (RBC) as sinks. Synergistic efflux was measured as the difference in fractional efflux in excess of that predicted by the addition of the individual efflux values of sink and shuttle alone. Synergistic efflux was obtained when LPDS was incubated with cells and LDL. When different components of LPDS were used as shuttles, albumin produced synergistic efflux, while apoA-I did not. A synergistic effect was also obtained when RBC was used as the sink and albumin as shuttle. The previously observed negative association of albumin with coronary artery disease might be linked to reduced cholesterol shuttling that would occur when serum albumin levels are low.

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