Hepatic Expression of Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1, a Cholesterol Reabsorber from Bile, Exacerbates Western Diet-Induced Atherosclerosis in LDL Receptor Mutant Mice.


Department of Pharmacy, The University of Tokyo Hospital, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan [Email]


Westernization of dietary habits increases lipid intake and is responsible for increased numbers of patients with atherosclerotic diseases. Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1 (NPC1L1)-a cholesterol importer-plays a crucial role in dietary cholesterol absorption in the intestine and is closely associated with several lipid-related diseases, including atherosclerosis. NPC1L1 is highly expressed in the liver and intestine in humans, whereas NPC1L1 expression is low in the rodent liver. Due to species differences in the tissue distribution of NPC1L1, there are limited studies on the pathophysiological role of hepatic NPC1L1, a cholesterol reabsorber from bile. In the present study, to explore whether hepatic NPC1L1 is involved in the development/progression of atherosclerosis, we compared four kinds of atherosclerosis mouse models with different expression levels of NPC1L1 in the intestinal and liver tissues in a genetic background of dysfunctional low-density lipoprotein receptor mutation. Western diet (WD)-induced hyperlipidemia and atherosclerotic plaque formation were more severe in mice expressing NPC1L1 in both the liver and intestine (plasma cholesterol, 839.5 mg/dl; plaque area, 29.5% of total aorta), compared with mice expressing NPC1L1 only in the intestine (plasma cholesterol, 573.1 mg/dl; plaque area, 13.3% of total aorta). Such hepatic NPC1L1-mediated promotion of hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis was not observed in mice not expressing intestinal NPC1L1 and mice treated with ezetimibe, an NPC1L1 inhibitor used clinically for dyslipidemia. These results suggested that hepatic NPC1L1 promotes WD-induced dyslipidemia and atherosclerosis in concert with intestinal NPC1L1. Our findings provide novel insights into the pathophysiological importance of hepatic NPC1L1 in development/progression of atherosclerosis. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1 (NPC1L1) protein, a cholesterol importer and a molecular target of ezetimibe clinically used for dyslipidemia, is highly expressed not only in the intestine, but also in the liver in humans, although the pathophysiological importance of hepatic NPC1L1 in atherosclerotic diseases remained unclear. By using novel mouse models to separately analyze the effects of hepatic and intestinal NPC1L1 on the development/progression of atherosclerosis, we first demonstrated that hepatic NPC1L1 accelerates Western diet-induced atherosclerotic plaque formation in an intestinal NPC1L1-dependent and an ezetimibe-sensitive manner.

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