Hepatic cholesterol and bile acid synthesis, low-density lipoprotein receptor function, and plasma and fecal sterol levels in mice: effects of apolipoprotein E deficiency and probucol or phytosterol treatment

Metabolism. 2001 Jun;50(6):708-14. doi: 10.1053/meta.2001.23303.


We compared hepatic cholesterol metabolism in apolipoprotein (apo) E-knockout (KO) mice with their wild-type counterparts. We also investigated the effects of treatment with phytosterols or probucol on the activity of hepatic 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase (cholesterol synthesis), cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase and sterol 27-hydroxylase (bile acid synthesis), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor function in this animal model of atherogenesis. These findings were then related to treatment-induced changes in plasma, hepatic, and fecal sterol concentrations. Mouse liver membranes have binding sites similar to LDL receptors; the receptor-mediated binding represents 80% of total binding and is LDL concentration-dependent. These binding sites have higher affinity for apo E-containing particles than apo B only-containing particles. Deletion of apo E gene was associated with several-fold increases in plasma cholesterol levels, 1.5-fold increase in hepatic cholesterol concentrations, 50% decrease in HMG-CoA reductase activity, 30% increase in cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase and 25% decrease in LDL receptor function. Treatment of apo E-KO mice with either probucol or phytosterols significantly reduced plasma cholesterol levels. Phytosterols significantly increased the activity of hepatic HMG-CoA reductase, and probucol significantly increased cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity. Neither treatment significantly altered hepatic LDL receptor function. Phytosterols, but not probucol, significantly increased fecal sterol excretion and decreased hepatic cholesterol concentrations. Plasma cholesterol lowering effects of phytosterols and probucol are due to different mechanisms: stimulation of cholesterol catabolism via increased bile acid synthesis by probucol and decreased cholesterol absorption by phytosterols. In the absence of apo E, hepatic LDL receptors could not be upregulated and did not contribute to the cholesterol lowering effects of either agent.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apolipoproteins E / deficiency*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / biosynthesis*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / blood
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Phytosterols / pharmacology*
  • Probucol / pharmacology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, LDL / genetics
  • Receptors, LDL / metabolism*


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Phytosterols
  • Receptors, LDL
  • Cholesterol
  • Probucol