Apolipoprotein (apo) A-I-containing nascent HDL particles produced by the ATP binding cassette transporter A1 have different sizes and compositions. To understand the molecular basis for this heterogeneity, the HDL particles produced by apoA-I-mediated solubilization of phospholipid (PL)/free (unesterified) cholesterol (FC) bilayer membranes in cell and cell-free systems are compared. Incubation of apoA-I with ATP binding cassette transporter A1-expressing baby hamster kidney cells leads to formation of two populations of FC-containing discoidal nascent HDL particles. The larger 11-nm diameter particles are highly FC-enriched (FC/PL = 1.2/1 mol/mol) relative to the smaller 8 nm particles and the cell plasma membrane (FC/PL = 0.4/1). ApoA-I-mediated spontaneous solubilization of either multilamellar or unilamellar vesicles made of a membrane-PL mixture and FC yields discoidal HDL particles with diameters in the range 9-17 nm and, as found with the cell system, the larger particles are relatively enriched in FC despite the fact that all particles are created by solubilization of a common FC/PL membrane domain. The size-dependent distribution of FC among HDL particles is due to varying amounts of PL being sequestered in a boundary layer by interaction with apoA-I at the disc edge. The presence of a relatively large boundary layer in smaller discoidal HDL promotes preferential distribution of phosphatidylserine to such particles. However, phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin which are the primary PL constituents of nascent HDL do not exhibit selective incorporation into HDL discs of different sizes. This understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the heterogeneity in lipid composition of nascent HDL particles may provide a basis for selecting subspecies with preferred cardio-protective properties.
Keywords: ABC Transporter; Apolipoproteins; Cholesterol; High Density Lipoprotein (HDL); Lipid Raft; Lipoprotein Structure; Membrane Lipids; Phospholipid; Phospholipids; Sphingolipid.