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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1994 Jun 23;1213(1):82-90.

Lactoferrin inhibits cholesterol accumulation in macrophages mediated by acetylated or oxidized low-density lipoproteins.

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Nutritional Science Laboratory, Morinaga Milk Industry Company Limited, Kanagawa, Japan.


When macrophages are incubated with acetylated or oxidized low-density lipoproteins (Ac- or OxLDL), cellular cholesteryl esters (CE) increase significantly. In the present study, we investigated the effect of whey protein on Ac- or OxLDL mediated accumulation of CE in macrophages and found that lactoferrin (Lf), a minor protein component of whey, inhibits the accumulation of CE dose-dependently. In the presence of bovine Lf (1 mg/ml), CE accumulation in macrophages incubated with AcLDL (100 micrograms of protein/ml) decreased by more than 80%. Human Lf was less potent than bovine Lf, and bovine transferrin had no effect. Binding of 125I-AcLDL to macrophages was also inhibited by Lf. Agarose gel electrophoresis revealed that Lf binds to Ac- or OxLDLs and neutralizes their negative charges. These results indicate that Lf inhibits the binding of modified LDLs to macrophages by direct interaction with modified LDLs, resulting in their loss of function as ligands of the scavenger receptor. Modification of the arginine residues of Lf with 1,2-cyclohexanedione abolished its ability to bind to AcLDL, suggesting that a region rich in basic amino acid residues near the N-terminus of Lf, which resembles the ligand-binding site of the scavenger receptor, may be responsible for this binding ability. As a result, the inhibitory effect of Lf on CE accumulation in macrophages was significantly weakened by this modification. Our results suggest the possibility that Lf in the blood stream may act as an anti-atherogenic agent in vivo.

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