Phospholipid transfer protein (PLTP) is associated with HDL particles in plasma, where it transfers phospholipids between lipoproteins and remodels HDL particles. Tangier disease patients, with a mutated ABCA1 transporter, have extremely low plasma HDL concentration and reduced PLTP activity levels, a phenotype that is also observed in mice lacking ABCA1. We investigated whether low HDL levels and low PLTP activity are mechanistically related. Firstly, we studied PLTP expression and distribution among lipoproteins in mice lacking ABCA1 (ABCA1-/-). Parallel to the strong reduction in PLTP activity in plasma of ABCA1-/-mice, decreased PLTP protein levels were observed. Neither PLTP synthesis in liver or macrophages nor the ability of the macrophages to secrete PLTP were impaired in ABCA1-/-mice. However, the PLTP activity level in the medium of cultured macrophages was determined by HDL levels in the medium. PLTP was associated with HDL particles in wild type mice, whereas in ABCA1-/-mice, PLTP was associated with VLDL and LDL particles. Secondly, we treated different mouse models with varying plasma HDL and PLTP levels (wild type, ABCA1-/-, apoE-/-and PLTPtg mice, overexpressing human PLTP) with a synthetic LXR ligand, and investigated the relationship between LXR-mediated PLTP induction and HDL levels in plasma. Plasma PLTP activity in wild type mice was induced 5.6-fold after LXR activation, whereas in ABCA1-/-, apoE-/-and PLTPtg mice, all having reduced HDL levels, induction of PLTP activity was 2.4-, 3.2- and 2.0-fold, respectively. The less pronounced PLTP induction in these mice compared to wild type mice was not caused by a decreased PLTP gene expression in the liver or macrophages. Our findings indicate that the extent of LXR-mediated PLTP induction depends on plasma HDL levels. In conclusion, we demonstrate that ABCA1 deficiency in mice affects plasma PLTP level and distribution through an indirect effect on HDL metabolism. In addition, we show that the extent of LXR-mediated PLTP induction is HDL-dependent. These findings indicate that plasma HDL level is an important regulator of plasma PLTP and might play a role in the stabilization of PLTP in plasma.

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Keywords ATP-binding cassette transporter A1, High density lipoprotein, Lipoprotein metabolism, Liver X receptor, Phospholipid transfer protein
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Samyn, H., Moerland, M., van Gent, T., van Haperen, R., van Tol, A., & de Crom, M.P.G.. (2009). Reduction of HDL levels lowers plasma PLTP and affects its distribution among lipoproteins in mice. B B A - Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, 1791(8), 790–796. doi:10.1016/j.bbalip.2009.04.009