Purpose of review: Hepatic lipase plays a key role in the metabolism of pro-atherogenic and anti-atherogenic lipoproteins affecting their plasma level as well as their physico-chemical properties. However, controversial evidence exists concerning whether hepatic lipase is pro or anti-atherogenic. The goal of this review is to summarize recent evidence that connects the enzyme to cardiovascular disease. The potential impact of genetic determinants of hepatic lipase activity in modulating both the development of coronary and carotid atherosclerosis will be discussed based on hepatic lipase proposed roles in lipoprotein metabolism.
Recent findings: Twenty to 30% of individual variation of hepatic lipase activity is accounted for by the presence of a common polymorphism in the promoter region (-514 C to T) of the hepatic lipase gene (LIPC). This polymorphism, via its impact on hepatic lipase synthesis and activity, appears to contribute to (1) individual susceptibility to cardiovascular disease: the presence of the T allele (low hepatic lipase activity) may carry a marginally increased risk of atherosclerosis; (2) carotid plaque composition and individual susceptibility to cerebrovascular events: the presence of the C allele (high hepatic lipase activity) is associated with increased carotid intima-media thickness and abundance of macrophages in the carotid plaque (unstable plaque); and (3) response of cardiovascular disease patients to lipid-lowering therapy: patients with the CC genotype have the greatest clinical benefit from intensive lipid-lowering therapy.
Summary: Convincing evidence shows that hepatic lipase plays a key role in remnant lipoprotein catabolism as well as in remodeling of LDL and HDL particles. The anti or pro-atherogenic role of hepatic lipase is likely to be modulated by the concurrent presence of other lipid abnormalities (i.e. increased LDL cholesterol levels) as well as by the genetic regulation of other enzymes involved in lipoprotein metabolism. Characterization of patients by their LIPC genotype will contribute to a better definition of individual risk of coronary and cerebrovascular events, specifically in patients with qualitative (small, atherogenic LDL and low HDL2 cholesterol) rather than quantitative lipid abnormalities for whom the routine lipid profile may underestimate the risk of coronary and cerebrovascular disease.