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J Lipid Res. 1990 May;31(5):859-69.

Synthetic low and high fat diets for the study of atherosclerosis in the mouse.

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Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Children's Hospital Medical Center, Oakland, CA 94609.


Diets currently used to produce atherosclerotic lesions in mice are often undefined and cause accumulation of fat in the liver and gallstone formation. Therefore, synthetic low and high fat diets of known composition were formulated in this study. A synthetic diet containing 50% sucrose, 15% cocoa butter, 1% cholesterol, and 0.5% sodium cholate was found to produce a depression in high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and an elevation of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in the atherosclerosis-susceptible strain, C57BL/6J. This diet was able to consistently produce aortic lesions and led to a decrease in liver damage and gallstone formation. The synthetic low fat diet did not produce HDL-C levels as high as those found in mice fed chow, but resulted in similar VLDL/LDL-C levels. Lipoprotein and apolipoprotein parameters were compared in C57BL/6J and the atherosclerosis-resistant strain, C3H/HeJ, consuming the synthetic low fat or high fat diets. As reported earlier, when consuming a high fat diet C57BL/6J mice have significantly lower HDL-C and apoA-I levels than C3H/HeJ mice. Further analysis shows that the molar ratio of plasma HDL-C to apoA-I is significantly lower in C57BL/6J mice, suggesting that HDL in the susceptible strain has a lower cholesterol-carrying capacity. This conclusion is consistent with the observation that the HDL particle size is smaller for C57BL/6J mice than for C3H/HeJ. Both strains increased their apoE levels when fed the synthetic high fat diet, but C3H/HeJ mice had higher levels of apoE on both diets. The major response to consumption of the high fat diet for both strains was an increase in apoB-48 from 5 micrograms/ml on a low fat diet to 54 and 109 micrograms/ml for C57BL/6J and C3H/HeJ, respectively. ApoB-100 showed minimal response to the high fat diet. The defined high fat diet can be used to study atherosclerosis in the mouse since it produces aortic lesions but reduces or eliminates other pathological changes such as gallstone formation and liver damage.

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