Structure and interactions of lipids in human plasma low density lipoproteins

J Biol Chem. 1977 Jan 25;252(2):744-54.


Temperature-dependent techniques (differential scanning calorimetry, polarizing microscopy, and x-ray scattering and diffraction techniques) were used to compare the properties of human plasma low density lipoproteins (LDL) with its extracted lipid classes. Three types of thermal transitions were characterized: (a) a reversible transition in intact LDL near body temperature associated with a liquid crystalline order-disorder phase change of cholesterol esters within the particles; (b) an irreversible high temperature transition (approximately 70-90 degrees) associated with LDL denaturation and release of cholesterol esters from the disrupted particles; and (c) low temperature transitions related to liquid crystalline and crystalline phase changes in these released esters. The temperature of the reversible transition in intact LDL varies among individual donors. Correlation analysis shows that the temperature of this transition negatively correlates with the amount of triglyceride relative to cholesterol ester in LDL. Studies on mixtures of cholesterol esters and triglycerides isolated from LDL show a similar effect, increasing amounts of triglycerides decreasing the temperature of the liquid leads to smectic liquid crystalline transition of the isolated esters. Thus, the amount of triglyceride in LDL influences the fluidity of the cholesterol esters in LDL. The enthalpy of the reversible transition in intact LDL is 0.69 cal/g of LDL cholesterol ester. This compares with 0.89 cal/g for the liquid leads to liquid crystalline transition of the cholesterol esters released from denatured LDL and 1.01 cal/g for the same transition in the extracted esters. Unlike the cholesterol esters released from denatured LDL, or isolated LDL esters, cholesterol ester in the intact LDL particle does not crystallize. These findings suggest that the behavior of cholesterol esters in intact LDL is constrained relative to their behavior when freed from the restrictions of the particle. These results together with experiments on partitioning of the individual lipid classes of LDL allow us to define the distribution and interaction of lipids in the intact LDL particle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Calorimetry
  • Cholesterol / analysis
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol Esters / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipoproteins, LDL* / blood
  • Male
  • Phospholipids / analysis
  • Protein Conformation
  • Temperature
  • Thermodynamics
  • Triglycerides / analysis
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Cholesterol Esters
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Phospholipids
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol