Oxidized low-density lipoprotein stimulates p53-dependent activation of proapoptotic Bax leading to apoptosis of differentiated endothelial progenitor cells

Endocrinology. 2007 May;148(5):2085-94. doi: 10.1210/en.2006-1709. Epub 2007 Feb 8.


Dyslipidemia increases the risks for atherosclerosis in part by impairing endothelial integrity; endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) play a pivotal role in reendothelialization. In this study, we investigated the mechanism whereby oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) affects the function of differentiated EPCs (EDCs). In EDCs expanded in vitro from EPCs isolated from human cord blood, we measured EDC responses to both copper-oxidized LDL and L5, an electronegative LDL minimally oxidized in vivo in patients with hypercholesterolemia. OxLDL induced apoptosis of EDCs and impaired their response to nitric oxide. We found that the key to oxLDL-induced apoptosis in both EDCs and endothelial cells is the induction of a conformational change of Bax, leading to Bax activation without altering its expression. The conformationally changed Bax translocated to the mitochondria and stimulated apoptosis, as Bax knockdown prevented oxLDL-induced apoptosis in EDCs. The activation of Bax is mediated by an increase in p53 and knockdown of p53 abolished oxLDL-induced activation of Bax and apoptosis. OxLDL activated p53 through production of mitochondria-derived reactive oxygen species. In EDCs treated with a recombinant adenovirus expressing superoxide dismutase or N-acetyl-cysteine (but not catalase), the p53-Bax pathway activated by oxLDL was blocked, and apoptosis was prevented. Of importance, treatment of EDC with low-concentration L5 stimulated superoxide dismutase expression, which significantly attenuated apoptosis in EDCs exposed to high-concentration L5. These findings suggest that exposure of EDCs and endothelial cells to either experimentally prepared or naturally occurring modified LDL results in an increased transfer of mitochondria-derived superoxide anion to p53, which stimulates a conformational change in Bax favoring its translocation to the mitochondria with resultant apoptosis of these cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Calcimycin / pharmacology
  • Carotid Arteries / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Glycoproteins
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / metabolism
  • Hypercholesterolemia / pathology*
  • Ionophores / pharmacology
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism*
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / pharmacology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Peptides
  • Protein Conformation
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sheep
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • Vasodilation / drug effects
  • Vasodilation / physiology
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / chemistry
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / genetics
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism*


  • AC133 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD
  • BAX protein, human
  • Glycoproteins
  • Ionophores
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Peptides
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • Calcimycin