Monocyte phenotyping and management of lipoprotein X syndrome

J Clin Lipidol. 2020 Nov-Dec;14(6):850-858. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2020.08.012. Epub 2020 Sep 4.


Background: Accumulation of lipoprotein X (LpX) in blood can cause severe hypercholesterolemia and cutaneous xanthomas. Monocytes sensitively sense lipid changes in circulation and contribute to inflammation. However, how monocytes respond to LpX is undefined.

Objective: We examined the phenotype of monocytes from a patient, who had LpX, severe hypercholesterolemia, and extensive cutaneous xanthomas, and effects of semiselective plasmapheresis therapy (SPPT).

Method: Fluorescence-activated cell sorting and adhesion assays were used to examine monocyte phenotype and ex vivo oxidized low-density lipoprotein uptake and adhesion in the patient before and after treatment with SPPT. Effects of plasma from the patient on the phenotype and adhesion of monocytes from a healthy participant were determined.

Results: SPPT improved hypercholesterolemia and cutaneous xanthomas. Before treatment, the patient had lower frequency of nonclassical monocytes but higher frequency of intermediate monocytes than the control participant. Before treatment, monocytes from the patient with LpX showed more intracellular lipid accumulation, alterations in several cell surface markers and intracellular cytokines, as well as enhanced oxidized low-density lipoprotein uptake and reduced adhesion compared with control. After SPPT, the phenotypes of monocytes from the patient with LpX were similar to control monocytes. Incubation with plasma from the patient before treatment as compared with plasma from the control participant or the patient after treatment increased CD11c expression and adhesion of monocytes from a healthy participant.

Conclusion: LpX-induced hypercholesterolemia increased lipid accumulation and altered the phenotype of monocytes, which may contribute to cutaneous xanthoma development. Removal of LpX by SPPT reduced lipid accumulation and improved monocyte phenotype, likely contributing to xanthoma resolution.

Keywords: Foamy monocyte; Hypercholesterolemia; Lipoprotein X; Primary biliary cirrhosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / blood
  • Hypercholesterolemia / immunology
  • Lipoprotein-X / blood*
  • Monocytes / cytology*
  • Phenotype*


  • Lipoprotein-X