High-Density Lipoprotein, Lecithin: Cholesterol Acyltransferase, and Atherosclerosis

Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2016 Jun;31(2):223-9. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2016.31.2.223. Epub 2016 Jun 10.


Epidemiological data clearly show the existence of a strong inverse correlation between plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) concentrations and the incidence of coronary heart disease. This relation is explained by a number of atheroprotective properties of HDL, first of all the ability to promote macrophage cholesterol transport. HDL are highly heterogeneous and are continuously remodeled in plasma thanks to the action of a number of proteins and enzymes. Among them, lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) plays a crucial role, being the only enzyme able to esterify cholesterol within lipoproteins. LCAT is synthetized by the liver and it has been thought to play a major role in reverse cholesterol transport and in atheroprotection. However, data from animal studies, as well as human studies, have shown contradictory results. Increased LCAT concentrations are associated with increased HDL-C levels but not necessarily with atheroprotection. On the other side, decreased LCAT concentration and activity are associated with decreased HDL-C levels but not with increased atherosclerosis. These contradictory results confirm that HDL-C levels per se do not represent the functionality of the HDL system.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase; Lipoproteins, HDL.

Publication types

  • Review