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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Mar;83(3):836-46.

Decreased cholesterol efflux from fibroblasts of a patient without Tangier disease, but with markedly reduced high density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

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Lipid Metabolism Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


A 51-yr-old woman without clinical evidence of Tangier disease, but with an extremely low high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level, was studied. No defect in the major structural protein of HDL, apolipoprotein AI (apo AI), was detected. A preponderance of small HDL particles in the patient's plasma suggested defective uptake of cellular cholesterol. Efflux of [3H]cholesterol from patient fibroblasts to normal apo AI was decreased 50%. Cholesterol efflux to HDL was also decreased, but efflux to trypsin-modified HDL was not. The patient's cells partitioned more exogenously provided [3H]cholesterol into free cholesterol and synthesized greater amounts of phosphatidylcholine than did normal or Tangier fibroblasts. Her fibroblasts did not differ from normal fibroblasts in sterol synthesis rate, cellular cholesterol and cholesterol ester content, or incorporation of oleate into cholesterol ester. The data indicate the presence of a defect in apolipoprotein-dependent cellular cholesterol efflux that differs from that seen in Tangier disease. These findings are the first evidence that other low HDL cholesterol syndromes, besides Tangier disease, may also be associated with cholesterol efflux abnormalities. The identification of mutant genes responsible for apolipoprotein-mediated efflux abnormalities should provide valuable insights into cellular mechanisms involved in the reverse cholesterol transport pathway.

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