27 August 1999
Recent studies have shown that a membrane p-glycoprotein, encoded by MDR1 gene, is involved in the transport of free cholesterol from the plasma membrane to endoplasmic reticulum, the site of cholesterol esterification by acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT). Moreover, results deriving from our previous studies have shown that the rate of cell proliferation was positively correlated with cholesteryl ester levels as well as with ACAT and MDR1 gene expression. In this study, lipid content and the expression of the genes involved in cholesterol metabolism such as hydroxy-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCoA-R), low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDL-R), ACAT and MDR1 have been investigated in control and atherosclerotic arteries. The results have shown that the levels of cholesteryl ester increase with the age of cadaveric donors in arteries prone to atherosclerosis (abdominal aorta, superficial femoral artery) and become predominant in advanced atherosclerotic lesions. The mRNA levels of ACAT and MDR1 showed the same age correlation, reaching the highest values in atherosclerotic specimens. These results suggest that MDR1 may be involved in the accumulation of intracellular cholesterol ester levels found in atherosclerotic lesions. Moreover, the levels of HMGCoA-R, LDL-R and ACAT gene expressions progressively increased with the age of cadaveric donors; conversely, in atherosclerotic specimens, the mRNA levels of HMGCoA-R and LDL-R drastically decreased while ACAT gene expression reached its maximum. These findings suggest a reactivation of normal homeostatic regulation of cholesterol in advanced and complicated lesions.