Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) and phospholipid transfer protein (PLTP) are members of the lipid transfer/lipopolysaccharide binding protein gene family. Recently, the crystal structure of one of the members of the gene family, bactericidal permeability increasing protein, was solved, providing potential insights into the mechanisms of action of CETP and PLTP. These molecules contain intrinsic lipid binding sites and appear to act as carrier proteins that shuttle between lipoproteins to redistribute lipids. The phenotype of human CETP genetic deficiency states and CETP transgenic mice indicates that CETP plays a major role in the catabolism of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesteryl esters and thereby influences the concentration, apolipoprotein content, and size of HDL particles in plasma. PLTP also appears to have an important role in determining HDL levels and speciation. Recent data indicate that genetic CETP deficiency is associated with an excess of coronary heart disease in humans, despite increased HDL levels. Also, CETP expression is anti-atherogenic in many mouse models, even while lowering HDL. These data tend to support the reverse cholesterol transport hypothesis, i.e. that anti-atherogenic properties of HDL are related to its role in reverse cholesterol transport. Recently, another key molecule involved in this pathway was identified, scavenger receptor BI; this mediates the selective uptake of HDL cholesteryl esters in the liver and thus constitutes a pathway of reverse cholesterol transport parallel to that mediated by CETP. Reflecting its role in reverse cholesterol transport, the CETP gene is up-regulated in peripheral tissues and liver in response to dietary or endogenous hypercholesterolemia. An analysis of the CETP proximal promoter indicates that it contains sterol regulatory elements highly homologous to those present in 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase; the CETP gene is transactivated by the binding of SREBP-1 to these elements. A challenge for the future will be the manipulation of components of the reverse cholesterol transport pathway, such as CETP, PLTP, or scavenger receptor BI for therapeutic benefit.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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