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Research Article

Acute-Phase-HDL Remodeling by Heparan Sulfate Generates a Novel Lipoprotein with Exceptional Cholesterol Efflux Activity from Macrophages


During episodes of acute-inflammation high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the carrier of so-called good cholesterol, experiences a major change in apolipoprotein composition and becomes acute-phase HDL (AP-HDL). This altered, but physiologically important, HDL has an increased binding affinity for macrophages that is dependent on cell surface heparan sulfate (HS). While exploring the properties of AP-HDL∶HS interactions we discovered that HS caused significant remodeling of AP-HDL. The physical nature of this change in structure and its potential importance for cholesterol efflux from cholesterol-loaded macrophages was therefore investigated. In the presence of heparin, or HS, AP-HDL solutions at pH 5.2 became turbid within minutes. Analysis by centrifugation and gel electrophoresis indicated that AP-HDL was remodeled generating novel lipid poor particles composed only of apolipoprotein AI, which we designate β2. This remodeling is dependent on pH, glycosaminoglycan type, is promoted by Ca2+ and is independent of protease or lipase activity. Compared to HDL and AP-HDL, remodeled AP-HDL (S-HDL-SAA), containing β2 particles, demonstrated a 3-fold greater cholesterol efflux activity from cholesterol-loaded macrophage. Because the identified conditions causing this change in AP-HDL structure and function can exist physiologically at the surface of the macrophage, or in its endosomes, we postulate that AP-HDL contains latent functionalities that become apparent and active when it associates with macrophage cell surface/endosomal HS. In this way initial steps in the reverse cholesterol transport pathway are focused at sites of injury to mobilize cholesterol from macrophages that are actively participating in the phagocytosis of damaged membranes rich in cholesterol. The mechanism may also be of relevance to aspects of atherogenesis.