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J Lipid Res. 1997 Jan;38(1):101-9.

Cholesterol deposition in macrophages: foam cell formation mediated by cholesterol-enriched oxidized low density lipoprotein.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Pharmacy, University of Georgia, Athens 30602-2356, USA.


Oxidized low density lipoprotein (LDL) is thought to mediate the transformation of macrophages to cholesterol-rich foam cells. Yet convincing evidence for this process is lacking in vitro. We suggest that oxidized LDL-mediated foam cell formation is not seen in vitro because the cholesteryl ester content of LDL particles (oxidized in the presence of transition metals) is dramatically reduced. Thus, if oxidized LDL could be cholesterol-enriched prior to its addition to macrophages, this lipoprotein would be made more capable of inducing the cellular deposition of cholesteryl esters. When we enriched cupric sulfate-oxidized LDL with cholesterol by incubation of this lipoprotein with unesterified cholesterol/phosphatidylcholine liposomes and added it to mouse peritoneal macrophage cultures, we found that: a) the enrichment of oxidized LDL with cholesterol did not alter the extent of oxidized LDL degradation; b) the cells accumulated massive amounts of cholesteryl ester (148 microg/mg cell protein) and unesterified cholesterol (260 microg/mg cell protein) after 24 h of incubation; and c) Sephacryl S-1000 chromatography of the cholesterol-enriched oxidized LDL verified the formation of large oxidized LDL-unesterified cholesterol/phosphatidylcholine complexes. These results demonstrate that oxidized LDL, when cholesterol-enriched, can mediate the formation of macrophage foam cells in culture.

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