Interindividual variation in pathways affecting cellular cholesterol metabolism can influence levels of plasma cholesterol, a well-established risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Inherent variation among immortalized lymphoblastoid cell lines from different donors can be leveraged to discover novel genes that modulate cellular cholesterol metabolism. The objective of this study was to identify novel genes that regulate cholesterol metabolism by testing for evidence of correlated gene expression with cellular levels of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR) mRNA, a marker for cellular cholesterol homeostasis, in a large panel of lymphoblastoid cell lines.
Excessive caloric intake is associated with obesity and adipose tissue dysfunction. However, the role of dietary cholesterol in this process is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine whether increasing dietary cholesterol intake alters adipose tissue cholesterol content, adipocyte size, and endocrine function in nonhuman primates.
The primary risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is LDL cholesterol, which can be reduced by increasing cholesterol excretion from the body. Fecal cholesterol excretion can be driven by a hepatobiliary as well as a non-biliary pathway known as transintestinal cholesterol efflux (TICE). We previously showed that chronic knockdown of the hepatic cholesterol esterifying enzyme sterol O-acyltransferase 2 (SOAT2) increased fecal cholesterol loss via TICE. To elucidate the initial events that stimulate TICE, C57Bl/6 mice were fed a high cholesterol diet to induce hepatic cholesterol accumulation and were then treated for 1 or 2 weeks with an antisense oligonucleotide targeting SOAT2. Within 2 weeks of hepatic SOAT2 knockdown (SOAT2HKD), the concentration of cholesteryl ester in the liver was reduced by 70% without a reciprocal increase in hepatic free cholesterol. The rapid mobilization of hepatic cholesterol stores resulted in a ? 2-fold increase in fecal neutral sterol loss but no change in biliary cholesterol concentration. Acute SOAT2HKD increased plasma cholesterol carried primarily in lipoproteins enriched in apoB and apoE. Collectively, our data suggest that acutely reducing SOAT2 causes hepatic cholesterol to be swiftly mobilized and packaged onto nascent lipoproteins that feed cholesterol into the TICE pathway for fecal excretion.
An effective way to reduce LDL cholesterol, the primary risk factor of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, is to increase cholesterol excretion from the body. Our group and others have recently found that cholesterol excretion can be facilitated by both hepatobiliary and transintestinal pathways. However, the lipoprotein that moves cholesterol through the plasma to the small intestine for transintestinal cholesterol efflux (TICE) is unknown. To test the hypothesis that hepatic very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) support TICE, antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) were used to knockdown hepatic expression of microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP), which is necessary for VLDL assembly. While maintained on a high cholesterol diet, Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 hepatic transgenic (L1Tg) mice, which predominantly excrete cholesterol via TICE, and wild type (WT) littermates were treated with control ASO or MTP ASO. In both WT and L1Tg mice, MTP ASO decreased VLDL triglyceride (TG) and cholesterol secretion. Regardless of treatment, L1Tg mice had reduced biliary cholesterol compared to WT mice. However, only L1Tg mice treated with MTP ASO had reduced fecal cholesterol excretion. Based upon these findings, we conclude that VLDL or a byproduct such as LDL can move cholesterol from the liver to the small intestine for TICE.
Reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) can proceed through the classic hepatobiliary route or through the nonbiliary transintestinal cholesterol efflux (TICE) pathway. Scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI) plays a critical role in the classic hepatobiliary route of RCT. However, the role of SR-BI in TICE has not been studied. To examine the role of intestinal SR-BI in TICE, sterol balance was measured in control mice and mice transgenically overexpressing SR-BI in the proximal small intestine (SR-BI(hApoCIII-ApoAIV-Tg)). SR-BI(hApoCIII-ApoAIV-Tg) mice had significantly lower plasma cholesterol levels compared with wild-type controls, yet SR-BI(hApoCIII-ApoAIV-Tg) mice had normal fractional cholesterol absorption and fecal neutral sterol excretion. Both in the absence or presence of ezetimibe, intestinal SR-BI overexpression had no impact on the amount of cholesterol excreted in the feces. To specifically study effects of intestinal SR-BI on TICE we crossed SR-BI(hApoCIII-ApoAIV-Tg) mice into a mouse model that preferentially utilized the TICE pathway for RCT (Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 liver transgenic), and likewise found no alterations in cholesterol absorption or fecal sterol excretion. Finally, mice lacking SR-BI in all tissues also exhibited normal cholesterol absorption and fecal cholesterol disposal. Collectively, these results suggest that SR-BI is not rate limiting for intestinal cholesterol absorption or for fecal neutral sterol loss through the TICE pathway.
Plant sterols, or phytosterols, are very similar in structure to cholesterol and are abundant in typical diets. The reason for poor absorption of plant sterols by the body is still unknown. Mutations in the ABC transporters G5 and G8 are known to cause an accumulation of plant sterols in blood and tissues (sitosterolemia). To determine the significance of phytosterol exclusion from the body, we fed wild-type and ABCG5/G8 knockout mice a diet enriched with plant sterols. The high-phytosterol diet was extremely toxic to the ABCG5/G8 knockout mice but had no adverse effects on wild-type mice. ABCG5/G8 knockout mice died prematurely and developed a phenotype that included high levels of plant sterols in many tissues, liver abnormalities, and severe cardiac lesions. This study is the first to report such toxic effects of phytosterol accumulation in ABCG5/G8 knockout mice. We believe these new data support the conclusion that plant sterols are excluded from the body because they are toxic when present at high levels.
Nutrient composition of a diet (D) has been shown to interact with genetic predispositions (G) to affect various lipid phenotypes. Our aim in this study was to confirm G × D interaction and determine whether the interaction extends to other cardiometabolic risk factors such as glycemic measures and body weight. Subjects were vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus; n = 309) from a multigenerational pedigreed colony initially fed with a plant-based diet, standard primate diet (18% calories from protein, 13% from fat, and 69% from carbohydrates), and subsequently challenged for 8 weeks with a diet modeled on the typical American diet (18% calories from protein, 35% from fat, and 47% from carbohydrates). Our results showed that although exposure to the challenge diet did not result in significant changes in weight, most lipid and glycemic biomarkers moved in an adverse direction (P < 0.01). Quantitative genetic analyses showed that cardiometabolic phenotypes were significantly heritable under both dietary conditions (P < 0.05), and there was significant evidence of G × D interaction for these phenotypes. We observed significant differences in the additive genetic variances for most lipid phenotypes (P < 10(-4) ), indicating that the magnitude of genetic effects varies by diet. Furthermore, genetic correlations between diets differed significantly from 1 with respect to insulin, body weight, and some lipid phenotypes (P < 0.01). This implied that distinct genetic effects are involved in the regulation of these phenotypes under the two dietary conditions. These G × D effects confirm and extend previous observations in baboons (Papio sp.) and suggest that mimicking the typical human nutritional environment can reveal genetic influences that might not be observed in animals consuming standard, plant-based diets.
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of mortality in westernized countries, despite optimum medical therapy to reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-associated cholesterol. The pursuit of novel therapies to target the residual risk has focused on raising the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-associated cholesterol in order to exploit its atheroprotective effects. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as important post-transcriptional regulators of lipid metabolism and are thus a new class of target for therapeutic intervention. MicroRNA-33a and microRNA-33b (miR-33a/b) are intronic miRNAs whose encoding regions are embedded in the sterol-response-element-binding protein genes SREBF2 and SREBF1 (refs 3-5), respectively. These miRNAs repress expression of the cholesterol transporter ABCA1, which is a key regulator of HDL biogenesis. Recent studies in mice suggest that antagonizing miR-33a may be an effective strategy for raising plasma HDL levels and providing protection against atherosclerosis; however, extrapolating these findings to humans is complicated by the fact that mice lack miR-33b, which is present only in the SREBF1 gene of medium and large mammals. Here we show in African green monkeys that systemic delivery of an anti-miRNA oligonucleotide that targets both miR-33a and miR-33b increased hepatic expression of ABCA1 and induced a sustained increase in plasma HDL levels over 12 weeks. Notably, miR-33 antagonism in this non-human primate model also increased the expression of miR-33 target genes involved in fatty acid oxidation (CROT, CPT1A, HADHB and PRKAA1) and reduced the expression of genes involved in fatty acid synthesis (SREBF1, FASN, ACLY and ACACA), resulting in a marked suppression of the plasma levels of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)-associated triglycerides, a finding that has not previously been observed in mice. These data establish, in a model that is highly relevant to humans, that pharmacological inhibition of miR-33a and miR-33b is a promising therapeutic strategy to raise plasma HDL and lower VLDL triglyceride levels for the treatment of dyslipidaemias that increase cardiovascular disease risk.
Genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis and uptake are transcriptionally regulated in response to cellular sterol content in a coordinated manner. A number of these genes, including 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR) and LDL receptor (LDLR), undergo alternative splicing, resulting in reductions of enzyme or protein activity. Here we demonstrate that cellular sterol depletion suppresses, and sterol loading induces, alternative splicing of multiple genes involved in the maintenance of cholesterol homeostasis including HMGCR and LDLR, the key regulators of cellular cholesterol biosynthesis and uptake, respectively. These changes were observed in both in vitro studies of the HepG2 human hepatoma derived cell line, as well as in vivo studies of St. Kitts vervets, also known as African green monkeys, a commonly used primate model for investigating cholesterol metabolism. These effects are mediated in part by sterol regulation of polypyrimidine tract binding protein 1 (PTBP1), since knock-down of PTBP1 eliminates sterol induced changes in alternative splicing of several of these genes. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that influence HMGCR and LDLR alternative splicing (rs3846662 and rs688, respectively), have been associated with variation in plasma LDL-cholesterol levels. Sterol-induced changes in alternative splicing are blunted in carriers of the minor alleles for each of these SNPs, indicating an interaction between genetic and non-genetic regulation of this process. Our results implicate alternative splicing as a novel mechanism of enhancing the robust transcriptional response to conditions of cellular cholesterol depletion or accumulation. Thus coordinated regulation of alternative splicing may contribute to cellular cholesterol homeostasis as well as plasma LDL levels.
Plasma HDL levels have a protective role in atherosclerosis, yet clinical therapies to raise HDL levels have remained elusive. Recent advances in the understanding of lipid metabolism have revealed that miR-33, an intronic microRNA located within the SREBF2 gene, suppresses expression of the cholesterol transporter ABC transporter A1 (ABCA1) and lowers HDL levels. Conversely, mechanisms that inhibit miR-33 increase ABCA1 and circulating HDL levels, suggesting that antagonism of miR-33 may be atheroprotective. As the regression of atherosclerosis is clinically desirable, we assessed the impact of miR-33 inhibition in mice deficient for the LDL receptor (Ldlr-/- mice), with established atherosclerotic plaques. Mice treated with anti-miR33 for 4 weeks showed an increase in circulating HDL levels and enhanced reverse cholesterol transport to the plasma, liver, and feces. Consistent with this, anti-miR33-treated mice showed reductions in plaque size and lipid content, increased markers of plaque stability, and decreased inflammatory gene expression. Notably, in addition to raising ABCA1 levels in the liver, anti-miR33 oligonucleotides directly targeted the plaque macrophages, in which they enhanced ABCA1 expression and cholesterol removal. These studies establish that raising HDL levels by anti-miR33 oligonucleotide treatment promotes reverse cholesterol transport and atherosclerosis regression and suggest that it may be a promising strategy to treat atherosclerotic vascular disease.
Reduction of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol through statin therapy has only modestly decreased coronary heart disease (CHD)-associated mortality in developed countries, which has prompted the search for alternative therapeutic strategies for CHD. Major efforts are now focused on therapies that augment high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-mediated reverse cholesterol transport (RCT), and ultimately increase the fecal disposal of cholesterol. The process of RCT has long been thought to simply involve HDL-mediated delivery of peripheral cholesterol to the liver for biliary excretion out of the body. However, recent studies have revealed a novel pathway for RCT that does not rely on biliary secretion. This non-biliary pathway rather involves the direct excretion of cholesterol by the proximal small intestine. Compared to RCT therapies that augment biliary sterol loss, modulation of non-biliary fecal sterol loss through the intestine is a much more attractive therapeutic strategy, given that excessive biliary cholesterol secretion can promote gallstone formation. However, we are at an early stage in understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating the non-biliary pathway for RCT, and much additional work is required in order to effectively target this pathway for CHD prevention. The purpose of this review is to discuss our current understanding of biliary and non-biliary contributions to RCT with particular emphasis on the possibility of targeting the intestine as an inducible cholesterol secretory organ.
Recent evidence suggests that the intestine may play a direct facilitative role in reverse cholesterol transport (RCT), independent of hepatobiliary secretion. In order to understand the nonbiliary pathway for RCT, we created both genetic and surgical models of biliary cholesterol insufficiency. To genetically inhibit biliary cholesterol secretion, we generated mice in which Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1 (NPC1L1) was overexpressed in the liver. Compared to controls, NPC1L1(Liver-Tg) mice exhibit a >90% decrease in biliary cholesterol secretion, yet mass fecal sterol loss and macrophage RCT are normal. To surgically inhibit biliary emptying into the intestine, we have established an acute biliary diversion model. Strikingly, macrophage RCT persists in mice surgically lacking the ability to secrete bile into the intestine. Collectively, these studies demonstrate that mass fecal sterol loss and macrophage RCT can proceed in the absence of biliary sterol secretion, challenging the obligate role of bile in RCT.
Diosgenin exists in some food supplements and herbal medicines and lowers plasma cholesterol by increasing fecal cholesterol excretion. It is believed that diosgenin promotes fecal cholesterol excretion by stimulating biliary cholesterol secretion and decreasing intestinal cholesterol absorption. Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 (NPC1L1) was recently identified as an essential protein for intestinal cholesterol absorption. To determine the relative contribution of biliary secretion and intestinal absorption of cholesterol in diosgenin-stimulated fecal cholesterol excretion, wild-type (WT) and NPC1L1-knockout (L1KO) mice were fed a diet with or without 1% diosgenin. Fecal cholesterol excretion (mumol/day/100 g body weight) increased in diosgenin-fed WT and L1KO mice from 4.2 to 52 and from 63 to 140, respectively. Surprisingly, this increase in diosgenin-treated versus untreated L1KO mice (77) was even greater than that seen in diosgenin-treated versus untreated WT mice (47.8). Additionally, WT and L1KO mice fed the diosgenin diet had similar increases in biliary cholesterol concentration, despite unaltered hepatic expression of the hepatobiliary cholesterol transporter, ATP binding cassette transporters G5 and G8. Facilitated cholesterol excretion in diosgenin-treated WT and L1KO mice was associated with decreased hepatic and plasma cholesterol and increased liver expression of cholesterol synthetic genes. In contrast, diosgenin had no effect on the intestinal expression of NPC1L1 and cholesterol synthetic genes. In an in vitro assay, diosgenin was unable to block NPC1L1-dependent cholesterol uptake. In conclusion, diosgenin stimulation of fecal cholesterol excretion is independent of NPC1L1-mediated cholesterol absorption.
Signal initiation by the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) receptor scavenger receptor class B, type I (SR-BI), which is important to actions of HDL on endothelium and other processes, requires cholesterol efflux and the C-terminal transmembrane domain. The C-terminal transmembrane domain uniquely interacts with plasma membrane (PM) cholesterol.
More than one-quarter of Americans have hypercholesterolemia and/or are being treated with cholesterol-lowering medications. Given the systemic nature of hypercholesterolemia and remaining questions regarding its effect on tendons at a local level, we sought to assess the utility of small versus large animal model systems for translational studies by exploring the effect of hypercholesterolemia on supraspinatus tendon elastic mechanical properties in mice, rats, and monkeys. We hypothesized that stiffness and elastic modulus would be increased in tendons across species due to hypercholesterolemia.
The process of reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) is critical for disposal of excess cholesterol from the body. Although it is generally accepted that RCT requires biliary secretion, recent studies show that RCT persists in genetic or surgical models of biliary insufficiency. Discovery of this nonbiliary pathway has opened new possibilities of targeting the intestine as an inducible cholesterol excretory organ. In this review we highlight the relative contribution and therapeutic potential for both biliary and nonbiliary components of RCT.
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