Altered cholesterol metabolism in a hypercholesterolemia-resistant rabbit colony

Julie Ann Poorman, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


A colony of rabbits has been developed at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston that is resistant to dietary-induced hypercholesterolemia. The liver of resistant rabbits had higher levels of ($\sp{125}$I) $\beta$-VLDL binding and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl (HMGCoA) reductase activity, but lower acyl coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT) activity than normal rabbits. Direct quantitation of intracellular cholesterol content of the liver revealed that the resistant rabbits had $<$10% of the intracellular free cholesterol present in normal rabbits. Fibroblasts isolated from normal and resistant rabbits exhibited differences in ($\sp{125}$I) LDL binding, HMGCoA reductase activity and ACAT activity that were similar to those found in the liver. No structural differences were found in the LDL receptor of normal and resistant fibroblasts that would account for the increased binding capacity of the resistant cells. The regulation of LDL receptor levels by exogenous oxygenated sterols was similar in normal and resistant fibroblasts. The regulation of LDL receptor binding capacity by LDL was attenuated in the resistant compared to normal fibroblasts, suggesting that the resistant fibroblasts have an alternate pathway for processing lipoprotein-derived cholesterol. Sterol-balance studies revealed that the cholesterol-fed resistant rabbits increased lithocholic acid excretion compared to the basal state, and had higher levels of deoxycholic acid excretion than cholesterol-fed normal rabbits. In addition, the specific activity and mRNA levels of cholesterol 7$\alpha$-hydroxylase (C7$\alpha$H) were higher in resistant rabbits than normal rabbits, suggesting that the increased bile acid excretion was due to an increase in bile acid synthesis. Increased clearance of cholesterol relieves the negative feedback inhibition cholesterol exerts on expression of the LDL receptor. The number of cell surface LDL receptors is then increased in resistant rabbits and allows rapid clearance of lipoproteins from the plasma compartment, thereby reducing plasma cholesterol levels. The low intracellular cholesterol level also relieves the negative feedback inhibition cholesterol exerts on HMGCoA reductase. Increased synthesis of cholesterol from acetate provides cells with cholesterol for bile acid synthesis and/or homeostasis. The activity of ACAT is then decreased due to the flux of cholesterol through the bile acid synthetic pathways.

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Recommended Citation

Poorman, Julie Ann, "Altered cholesterol metabolism in a hypercholesterolemia-resistant rabbit colony" (1991). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9120163.