Purpose of review: Decreased size and increased density of LDL have been associated with increased coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. Elevated plasma concentrations of small dense LDL (sdLDL) correlate with high plasma triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol levels. This review highlights recent findings about the metabolism and composition of LDL subfractions.
Recent findings: The development of an automated assay has recently made possible the assessment of the CHD risk associated with sdLDL in large clinical trials and has demonstrated convincingly that sdLDL cholesterol levels are a more significant independent determinant of CHD risk than total LDL cholesterol. Metabolic studies have revealed that sdLDL particles originate through the delipidation of larger atherogenic VLDL and large LDL and from direct de novo production by the liver. Proteins associated with LDL, in addition to apolipoprotein (apo) B, include the C apolipoproteins, apoA-I, apoA-IV, apoD, apoE, apoF, apoH, apoJ, apoL-1, apoM, α-1 antitrypsin, migration inhibitory factor-related protein 8, lysosome C, prenylcysteine oxidase 1, paraoxonase 1, transthyretin, serum amyloid A4, and fibrinogen α chain. The role of the increasing number of LDL-associated proteins remains unclear; however, the data do indicate that LDL particles not only transport lipids but also carry proteins involved in inflammation and thrombosis. The sdLDL proteome in diabetic individuals differs significantly from that of larger LDL, being enriched in apoC-III.
Summary: Progress in our understanding of the composition and metabolism of LDL subfractions strengthens the association between sdLDL and CHD risk.