Receptor-mediated endocytosis is one of the major mechanisms for uptake of lipoprotein cholesterol in the liver. Because Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) protein is a key component in the intracellular distribution of cholesterol obtained from lipoproteins by the endocytic pathway, it may play a critical role in controlling plasma lipoprotein cholesterol and its biliary secretion. A murine model of Niemann-Pick type C disease (NPC), the NPC1-deficient [NPC1 (-/-)] mouse, was used to evaluate the relevance of hepatic NPC1 expression in regulating plasma lipoprotein cholesterol profile and biliary lipid secretion under chow and high-cholesterol diets. Total plasma cholesterol concentrations were increased in NPC1 (-/-) mice compared with wild-type mice when both mouse strains were fed chow or high-cholesterol diets. The increased plasma cholesterol levels found in NPC1 (-/-) mice were mostly due to elevated cholesterol content in larger and more heterogeneous HDL particles. On the chow diet, biliary lipid secretion was not impaired by NPC1 deficiency. Furthermore, chow-fed NPC1 (-/-) mice showed a small, but significant, increase in biliary cholesterol secretion. On the high-cholesterol diet, wild-type mice increased biliary cholesterol output, whereas NPC1 (-/-) mice did not. Finally, hepatic NPC1 overexpression by adenovirus-mediated gene transfer increased biliary cholesterol secretion by 100% to 150% in both wild-type mice and cholesterol-fed NPC1 (-1-) mice. In conclusion, hepatic NPC1 expression is an important factor for regulating plasma HDL cholesterol levels and biliary cholesterol secretion in mice.
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