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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Mar 26;110(13):5034-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1220703110. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

ABCA1 dimer-monomer interconversion during HDL generation revealed by single-molecule imaging.

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Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (WPI-iCeMS), Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


The generation of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), one of the most critical events for preventing atherosclerosis, is mediated by ATP-binding cassette protein A1 (ABCA1). ABCA1 is known to transfer cellular cholesterol and phospholipids to apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I) for generating discoidal HDL (dHDL) particles, composed of 100-200 lipid molecules surrounded by two apoA-I molecules; however, the regulatory mechanisms are still poorly understood. Here we observed ABCA1-GFP and apoA-I at the level of single molecules on the plasma membrane via a total internal reflection fluorescence microscope. We found that about 70% of total ABCA1-GFP spots are immobilized on the plasma membrane and estimated that about 89% of immobile ABCA1 molecules are in dimers. Furthermore, an ATPase-deficient ABCA1 mutant failed to be immobilized or form a dimer. We found that the lipid acceptor apoA-I interacts with the ABCA1 dimer to generate dHDL and is followed by ABCA1 dimer-monomer interconversion. This indicates that the formation of the ABCA1 dimer is the key for apoA-I binding and nascent HDL generation. Our findings suggest the physiological significance of conversion of the ABCA1 monomer to a dimer: The dimer serves as a receptor for two apoA-I molecules for dHDL particle generation.

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