High-density lipoproteins (HDL) levels have been shown to be inversely correlated with coronary heart disease, but the mechanisms of the direct protective effect of HDL on endothelial cells are not fully understood. The apoptosis of endothelial cells induced by cytokines and/or oxidized low-density lipoproteins, etc. may provide a mechanistic clue to the "response-to-injury" hypothesis of atherogenesis. Here we report that HDL prevent the apoptosis of human umbilical venous endothelial cells (HUVECs) induced by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) via an inhibition of CPP32-like protease activity. The incubation of HUVECs with TNF-alpha significantly increased the CPP32-like protease activity, and induced apoptosis. Preincubation of HUVECs with HDL before incubation with TNF-alpha significantly suppressed the increase in the CPP32-like protease activity, preventing apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner. These results suggest that HDL prevent the suicide pathway leading to apoptosis of endothelial cells by decreasing the CPP32-like protease activity and that HDL thus play a protective role against the "response-to-injury" hypothesis of atherogenesis.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.