The low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor (LDL-R) family consists of cell-surface receptors that recognize extracellular ligands and internalize them for degradation by lysosomes. The LDL-R is the prototype of this family, which also contains very-low-density lipoprotein receptors (VLDL-R), apolipoprotein E receptor 2, LRP, and megalin. The family members contain four major structural modules: the cysteine-rich complement-type repeats, epidermal growth factor precursor-like repeats, a transmembrane domain, and a cytoplasmic domain. Each structural module serves distinct and important functions. These receptors bind several structurally dissimilar ligands. It is proposed that instead of a primary sequence, positive electrostatic potential in different ligands constitutes a receptor binding domain. This family of receptors plays crucial roles in various physiologic functions. LDL-R plays an important role in cholesterol homeostasis. Mutations cause familial hypercholesterolemia and premature coronary artery disease. LDL-R–related protein plays an important role in the clearance of plasma-activated α-macroglobulin and apolipoprotein E–enriched lipoproteins. It is essential for fetal development and has been associated with Alzheimer's disease. Megalin is the major receptor in absorptive epithelial cells of the proximal tubules and an antigenic determinant for Heymann nephritis in rats. Mutations in a chicken homolog of VLDL-R cause female sterility and premature atherosclerosis. This receptor is not expressed in liver tissue; however, transgenic expression of VLDL-R in liver corrects hypercholesterolemia in experiment animals, which suggests that it can be a candidate for gene therapy for various hyperlipidemias. The functional importance of individual receptors may lie in their differential tissue expression. The regulation of expression of these receptors occurs at the transcriptional level. Expression of the LDL-R is regulated by intracellular sterol levels involving novel membrane-bound transcription factors. Other members of the family are not regulated by sterols. All the members are, however, regulated by hormones and growth factors, but the mechanisms of regulation by hormones have not been elucidated. Studies of these receptors have provided important insights into receptor structure-function and mechanisms of ligand removal and catabolism. It is anticipated that increased knowledge about the LDL-R family members will open new avenues for the treatment of many disorders.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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