Plasma cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) facilitates the transfer of cholesteryl ester (CE) from high density lipoprotein (HDL) to apolipoprotein B-containing lipoproteins. Since CETP regulates the plasma levels of HDL cholesterol and the size of HDL particles, CETP is considered to be a key protein in reverse cholesterol transport (RCT), a protective system against atherosclerosis. The importance of plasma CETP in lipoprotein metabolism was demonstrated by the discovery of CETP-deficient subjects with marked hyperalphalipoproteinemia (HALP). Genetic CETP deficiency is the most important and common cause of HALP in the Japanese. Ten mutations of the CETP gene have been demonstrated as causes of HALP, including two common mutations: an intron 14 splicing defect (Int14 + 1 G → A) and an exon 15 missense mutation (D442G). The subjects with CETP deficiency show a variety of abnormalities in the concentration, composition, and function of both HDL and low density lipoprotein (LDL). CETP deficiency is considered a physiological state of impaired RCT, which may possibly lead to the development of atherosclerosis despite high HDL cholesterol levels. However, the pathophysiological significance of CETP in terms of atherosclerosis has been controversial. Epidemiological studies in Japanese-Americans living in Hawaii and Japanese in the Omagari area, where HALP subjects with an intron 14 splicing defect of the CETP gene are markedly frequent, have shown a relatively increased incidence of coronary atherosclerosis in CETP deficiency. On the other hand, the TaqIB polymorphism-B2 allele with low CETP mass and increased HDL cholesterol has been related to a decreased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) in many studies, including the Framingham Offspring Study. The current review focused on the characterization of the Japanese subjects with CETP deficiency, including our recent findings.
The atherosclerotic intimal lesion contains endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, monocytes/macrophages and T lymphocytes, which constitute a histamine-cytokine network that participates in chronic inflammatory responses. Monocytes/macrophages and T lymphocytes express the histamine-producing enzyme histidine decarboxylase (HDC), and specific histamine receptors (HHR), which are switched from HH2R to HHR1 during macrophage differentiation. Endothelial and smooth muscle cells also express HHR in response to histamine. The effects of histamine on these cells include a regulation of atherosclerosis-related events such as cell proliferation, expression of matrix metalloproteinase, adhesion molecules and cytokines. Furthermore, recent studies have indicated that histamine and the activation of its specific receptors modulate the Th1/Th2 balance in inflammatory lesions through the regulation of cytokine production from inflammatory cells. The histamine-cytokine network in the atherosclerotic intima could regulate inflammatory and immune responses, including Th1/Th2 balance, and contribute to atherogenesis.
Primary hyperlipidemia is caused by various molecular defects in lipid metabolism. The Research Committee on Primary Hyperlipidemia organized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan (present: the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) has investigated reported mutations in Japanese patients with primary hyperlipidemia and related disorders (including hypolipidemia), and has created a database based on the questionnaire sent to the members of council board of the Japan Atherosclerosis Society. Mutations in the following genes were investigated: low density lipoprotein receptor, lecithin: cholesteryl acyltransferase, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), hepatic lipase, apolipoproteins A-I, A-II, A-IV, B, C-II, C-III and E, microsomal triglyceride transfer protein, and cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP). Until 1998, 922 patients with primary hyperlipidemia and related disorders has been registered with the Research Committee, and 190 mutations in 15 genes had been reported, showing a marked variation in Japanese patients with primary hyperlipidemia and related disorders. So-called “common mutations” have been described in Japanese patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, LPL deficiency and CETP deficiency. The genetic defect of familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCHL) is still unknown although FCHL is speculated to be the most prevalent genetic hyperlipidemia, and further investigations should be performed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of FCHL
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is one of the most common primary hyperlipidemias, characterized by a heterozygous or homozygous phenotype for a severe serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol level and advanced atherosclerosis, leading to coronary artery diseases (CAD). Various kinds of mutations in the LDL receptor gene responsible for the genetic disease have been identified since the human LDL receptor gene has been identified. In this study, the clinical features of FH were investigated using a database based on nationwide surveillance for primary hyperlipidemia and related disorders by the Research Committee on Primary Hyperlipidemia. The clinical features and the frequencies of accompanying vascular diseases in 660 cases of FH homozygotes and heterozygotes showed that the incidence of CAD was negatively associated with plasma HDL-cholesterol levels, but not with plasma LDL-cholesterol levels, in 641 FH heterozygotes. Risk factor analyses revealed that hypertension, male, smoking, low HDL-cholesterol levels, age > 50 y, diabetes mellitus, and hypertriglyceridemia were positive risk factors for CAD. The summarized gene analysis in FH heterozygotes showed at least 4 mutations in the LDL receptor gene as common mutations in Japan. The average serum lipids and frequency of CAD based on each common mutation suggested that their clinical features are in part determined by responsive mutations in the LDL receptor gene.
Rosuvastatin is a new statin that has been shown to produce substantial dose-dependent reductions in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in Western and Japanese hypercholesterolemic patients. Rosuvastatin efficacy and safety were assessed in an open-label, dose-titration trial of 37 Japanese patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. After an 8-week dietary lead-in period, patients received rosuvastatin on the following schedule: 10 mg/day during weeks 0−6; 20 mg/day during weeks 6−12, and 40 mg/day for weeks 12−18. Mean percentage reductions from baseline in LDL-C (49.2−56.7%), total cholesterol (39.4−45.4%), and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C) (46.7−54.3%) were highly significant at each dose (p < 0.0001). Similar significant reductions in triglycerides (18.2−25.0%; p < 0.006) and increases in HDL-C (9.6−13.6%; p < 0.005) were observed. Rosuvastatin was well tolerated. Two patients withdrew from the study because of adverse events unrelated to the study treatment. No patients had clinically significant elevations in liver transaminases. Two patients exhibited a single increase in creatine kinase (one unrelated to study treatment, the other possibly related) with no muscle symptoms. Rosuvastatin produced significant beneficial changes in all lipid parameters in Japanese patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia and was well tolerated.
In cases of vascular calcification, the expression of tropoelastin is down-regulated, which most likely decreases elastic fiber formation. However, the function of tropoelastin in vascular calcification remains unknown. We investigated whether tropoelastin affects the induction of vascular calcification. Calcification was induced using inorganic phosphate in cultured bovine aortic smooth muscle cells. The increase in tropoelastin due to the addition of recombinant bovine tropoelastin (ReBTE; 1 or 10 μg/ml) or β-aminopropionitrile (25 μg/ml) significantly inhibited calcification at day 6, as assessed by the o-cresolphthalein complexone method. The addition of an elastin-derived peptide, VGVAPG peptide (0.1−1,000 nM), inhibited calcification at day 6 in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, these responses of β-aminopropionitrile, ReBTE, and VGVAPG peptide were confirmed using von Kossa staining. To examine whether ReBTE inhibited calcium deposition via the elastin binding protein, lactose and elastin-specific antibody were used. The combination of lactose (20 mM) or this antibody (50 μg/ml) with ReBTE (10 μg/ml) attenuated the inhibition of calcification. These results suggest that increased tropoelastin inhibits vascular calcification in this model via the interaction between tropoelastin and elastin binding protein.
Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX) is a rare familial sterol storage disease, causing multiple xanthomas in tendons and the brain. The underlying biochemical defect is a lack of the hepatic mitochondrial cholesterol 27-hydroxylase involved in the normal biosynthesis of bile acid, resulting in reduced biosynthesis of chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA). It has been reported that administration of CDCA to CTX patients improves neurological disorders and xanthomas of the Achilles tendon. The present study investigated the effect of CDCA on the mechanism of cholesterol accumulation in macrophages, the major cells in xanthoma. The LDL from the patients in this study was significantly more susceptible to oxidative modification than normal LDL, and supplement therapy with CDCA resulted in an improvement in the susceptibility to oxidative modification. In the incubation of CDCA with plasma, 13% of the CDCA added to serum was recovered in the LDL fraction. In addition, supplementation with CDCA enhanced cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) activity and reduced high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol levels in the plasma. This evidence suggests that the multiple xanthomas observed in CTX may be induced by increased oxidized LDL and the low activity of CETP, both of which are caused by a lack of CDCA.
In the present study, we focused on the relationship of intra-abdominal visceral fat (VF) or subcutaneous fat (SF) mass to serum leptin levels, and also on the relationship of leptin to serum lipid and lipoprotein concentration. Subjects with obesity (26 men, 26 women) were recruited for this study. We obtained helical CT scans with a tube current of 150 mA, voltage of 120 kV and 2:1 pitch (table speed in relation to slice thickness), starting at the upper edge of the liver and continuing to the pelvis. The intra-abdominal visceral fat (VF) volume was measured by drawing a line within the muscle wall surrounding the abdominal cavity. The abdominal SF volume was calculated by subtracting the VF volume from the total abdominal fat volume. By comparison, the abdominal VF and SF areas were determined at the umbilical level by the established slice-by-slice CT scanning technique. We found: 1) abdominal SF mass, either as volume or area, was a more important determinant of serum leptin than was VF mass; 2) among TC, TG, HDL-C and LDL-C, only TG had a positive correlation to serum leptin levels in men, whereas in women no lipid parameters had any relationship with leptin; and 3) VF mass had a positive correlation to serum TC and TG in men, whereas SF did not. The present study provides considerable evidence on the relationship between abdominal fat mass and serum leptin, and shows that the relationships between serum leptin and serum lipids and lipoproteins are not straightforward. We also suggest that fat area measured by conventional CT is a better indicator than its corresponding volume assessed by helical CT, based on the present results showing its closer association to serum lipids.