A proposed model for the assembly of chylomicrons

Atherosclerosis. 2000 Jan;148(1):1-15. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9150(99)00397-4.


The intestine synthesizes very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) and chylomicrons (CM) to transport fat and fat-soluble vitamins into the blood. VLDL assembly occurs constitutively whereas CM assembly is a characteristic property of the enterocytes during the postprandial state. The secretion of CM is specifically inhibited by Pluronic L81. CM are very heterogeneously-sized particles that consist of a core of triglycerides (TG) and cholesterol esters and a monolayer of phospholipids (PL), cholesterol and proteins. The fatty acid composition of TG, but not PL, in CM mirrors the fatty acid composition of fat in the diet. CM assembly is deficient in abetalipoproteinemia and CM retention disease. Abetalipoproteinemia results due to mutation in the mttp gene and is characterized by the virtual absence of apoB-containing lipoproteins in the plasma. Patients suffer from neurologic disorders, visual impairment, and exhibit acanthocytosis. CM retention disease, an inherited recessive disorder, is characterized by chronic diarrhea with steatorrhea in infancy, abdominal distention and failure to thrive. It is caused by a specific defect in the secretion of intestinal lipoproteins; secretion of lipoproteins by the liver is not affected. Besides human disorders, mice that do not assemble intestinal lipoproteins have been developed. These mice are normal at birth, but defective in fat and fat-soluble vitamin absorption, and fail to thrive. Thus, fat and fat-soluble vitamin transport by the intestinal lipoproteins is essential for proper growth and development of neonates. Recently, differentiated Caco-2 cells and rabbit primary enterocytes have been described that synthesize and secrete CM. These cells can be valuable in distinguishing between the two different models proposed for the assembly of CM. In the first model, the assembly of VLDL and CM is proposed to occur by two 'independent' pathways. Second, CM assembly is proposed to be a product of 'core expansion' that results in the synthesis of lipoproteins of different sizes. According to this model, intestinal lipoprotein assembly begins with the synthesis of 'primordial' lipoprotein particles and involves release of the nascent apoB with PL derived from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane. In addition, TG-rich 'lipid droplets' of different sizes are formed independent of apoB synthesis. The fusion of lipid droplets and primordial lipoproteins results in the formation of different size lipoproteins due to the 'core expansion' of the primordial lipoproteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chylomicrons / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*


  • Chylomicrons