The concept of apolipoprotein-defined lipoprotein families and its clinical significance

Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2003 Nov;5(6):459-67. doi: 10.1007/s11883-003-0036-8.


Classification of plasma lipoproteins on the basis of apolipoprotein (apo) composition recognizes two lipoprotein (Lp) classes, one of which is characterized by apoA-I and the other by apoB as major protein constituents. The former lipoprotein class consists of three major subclasses referred to (according to their apolipoprotein constituents) as Lp-A-I, Lp-A-I:A-II, and Lp-A-II, and the latter one of five subclasses called Lp-B, Lp-B:E, Lp-B:C, Lp-B:C:E, and Lp-A-II:B:C:D:E. As polydisperse systems of particles, the apoA-I-containing lipoproteins overlap in high-density segments and apoB- containing lipoproteins in low-density segments of the density gradient. Each subclass is characterized by a specific chemical composition and metabolic property. Normolipidemia and dyslipoproteinemias are characterized by quantitative rather than qualitative differences in the levels of apoA- and apoB-containing subclasses. Furthermore, apoA-containing subclasses seem to differ with respect to their relative antiatherogenic capacities, and apoB-containing subclasses regarding their relative atherogenic potentials. Whereas Lp-A-I may have a greater antiatherogenic capacity than other apoA-containing subclasses, the cholesterol-enriched Lp-B:C appears to be the most atherogenic subclass among apoB-containing lipoprotein families. The use of pharmacologic and/or dietary interventions to treat dyslipoproteinemias has already shown that these therapeutic modalities may affect selectively individual apolipoprotein-defined lipoproteins, and thus allow the selection of individualized treatments targeted at decreasing harmful and/or increasing beneficial lipoprotein subclasses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apolipoprotein A-I / chemistry
  • Apolipoprotein A-I / metabolism
  • Apolipoproteins / blood
  • Apolipoproteins / chemistry
  • Apolipoproteins / classification*
  • Apolipoproteins / metabolism*
  • Apolipoproteins B / chemistry
  • Apolipoproteins B / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipoproteinemias / blood*
  • Hyperlipoproteinemias / diet therapy
  • Hyperlipoproteinemias / drug therapy
  • Lipoproteins / blood
  • Lipoproteins / drug effects


  • Apolipoprotein A-I
  • Apolipoproteins
  • Apolipoproteins B
  • Lipoproteins