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Clin Proteomics. 2018 Mar 6;15:10. doi: 10.1186/s12014-018-9186-0. eCollection 2018.

Proteomic characterization of high-density lipoprotein particles in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

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1Department of Genetics, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, San Antonio, TX USA.
2Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI USA.
3Present Address: Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN 38103 USA.
4Present Address: Center for Precision Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC USA.
5Department of Pathology, Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI USA.
6Department of Surgery, Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI USA.
7Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX USA.
8Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC USA.
9Department of Medicine, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN USA.



Metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes are associated with changes in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles, including changes in particle size and protein composition, often resulting in abnormal function. Recent studies suggested that patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), including individuals with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), have smaller HDL particles when compared to individuals without liver pathologies. However, no studies have investigated potential changes in HDL particle protein composition in patients with NAFLD, in addition to changes related to obesity, to explore putative functional changes of HDL which may increase the risk of cardiovascular complications.


From a cohort of morbidly obese females who were diagnosed with simple steatosis (SS), NASH, or normal liver histology, we selected five matched individuals from each condition for a preliminary pilot HDL proteome analysis. HDL particles were enriched using size-exclusion chromatography, and the proteome of the resulting fraction was analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Differences in the proteomes between the three conditions (normal, SS, NASH) were assessed using label-free quantitative analysis. Gene ontology term analysis was performed to assess the potential impact of proteomic changes on specific functions of HDL particles.


Of the 95 proteins identified, 12 proteins showed nominally significant differences between the three conditions. Gene ontology term analysis revealed that severity of the liver pathology may significantly impact the anti-thrombotic functions of HDL particles, as suggested by changes in the abundance of HDL-associated proteins such as antithrombin III and plasminogen.


The pilot data from this study suggest that changes in the HDL proteome may impact the functionality of HDL particles in NAFLD and NASH patients. These proteome changes may alter cardio-protective properties of HDL, potentially contributing to the increased cardiovascular disease risk in affected individuals. Further validation of these protein changes by orthogonal approaches is key to confirming the role of alterations in the HDL proteome in NAFLD and NASH. This will help elucidate the mechanistic effects of the altered HDL proteome on cardioprotective properties of HDL particles.


Anti-thrombotic; High-density lipoproteins; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Obesity; Proteomics

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