The low-density lipoprotein (LDL) of patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) has been reported to enhance cholesterol ester accumulation in aortic cells. The LDL of patients with CAD also has a higher mean density than the LDL of healthy subjects, indicating a different subspecies distribution. Because these density differences may be associated with altered metabolism and atherogenicity of LDL, we studied the properties and effects of isolated LDL subfractions on cell lipid metabolism and cholesterol accumulation.
Plasma pools of patients with angiographically proven CAD (A) and healthy controls (C) were used to isolate and fractionate LDL into five subfractions (1 to 5, from the lowest to the highest density) by gradient ultracentrifugation. Each of the LDL subfractions was analyzed for particle diameter, chemical composition, sialic acid content, and their effect on lipid content and cholesterol esterification in arterial cell and macrophage cultures, respectively.
The chemical compositions of the respective subfractions revealed no differences between patients and controls, except that the sialic acid content was reduced in dense LDL subfractions, especially in the samples from patients with CAD (fractions A3, A4, A5, and C5). LDL subfractions with reduced sialic acid content also enhanced the incorporation of [14C]-oleate into cholesterol esters in mouse peritoneal macrophage cultures (fractions A4, A5, and C5) and increased the cholesterol ester content in primary cultures of human aortic intimai cells (fractions A3, A4, A5, and C5).
The results suggest that the dense LDL subfractions of patients with CAD are atherogenic by promoting intracellular cholesterol ester accumulation. The results also suggest that the atherogenicity is associated with reduced sialic acid content of the LDL subspecies.