The understanding of the physiological and pathophysiological role of PLTP has greatly increased since the discovery of PLTP more than a quarter of century ago. A comprehensive review of PLTP is presented on the following topics: PLTP gene organization and structure; PLTP transfer properties; different forms of PLTP; characteristics of plasma PLTP complexes; relationship of plasma PLTP activity, mass and specific activity with lipoprotein and metabolic factors; role of PLTP in lipoprotein metabolism; PLTP and reverse cholesterol transport; insights from studies of PLTP variants; insights of PLTP from animal studies; PLTP and atherosclerosis; PLTP and signal transduction; PLTP in the brain; and PLTP in human disease. PLTP's central role in lipoprotein metabolism and lipid transport in the vascular compartment has been firmly established. However, more studies are needed to further delineate PLTP's functions in specific tissues, such as the lung, brain and adipose tissue. Furthermore, the specific role that PLTP plays in human diseases, such as atherosclerosis, cancer, or neurodegenerative disease, remains to be clarified. Exciting directions for future research include evaluation of PLTP's physiological relevance in intracellular lipid metabolism and signal transduction, which undoubtedly will advance our knowledge of PLTP functions in health and disease. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Advances in High Density Lipoprotein Formation and Metabolism: A Tribute to John F. Oram (1945-2010).
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