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Structure of good HDL cholesterol identified, explaining protective effect

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
HDL cholesterol

Scientists have found out how good HDL cholesterol protects the body from heart attack and stroke that they say is related to the structure of high density lipoprotein molecules.

How HDL cholesterol works seen in 3D

The scientists found out HDL cholesterol molecules circulate in the blood stream collecting fat particles with a "twisting" motion.

The researchers watched cholesterol circulate in human plasma in 3D, using spectroscopic and cross linking spectrometric techniques.

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The twisting motion allows HDL cholesterol to adapt as it picks up fat and deposits it away from artery walls to other places in the body. The scientists found the good cholesterol particles have cage-like structures that encapsulate fat.

Apolipoprotein A-I is a protein contained in HDL cholesterol that protect the heart, calms inflammation and has anti-oxidative effects. The researchers found most of the action of HDL cholesterol occurs on the surface predominantly from the action of apolipoprotein.

W. Sean Davidson, PhD, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center said, "This work presents the first detailed models of human plasma HDL and has important implications for understanding key interactions in plasma that modulate its protective functions in the context of cardiovascular disease."

Until now, very little was known about how HDL, known as good cholesterol, exerted a protective effect for stroke and hear attack. With the sophisticated technology, the researchers were able to determine most of the protection comes from apolipoprotein A-1 on the surface of HDL particles.

Nature Structural & Molecular Biology
"Apolipoprotein A-I structural organization in high-density lipoproteins isolated from human plasma"
Rong Huang, R A Gangani D Silva, W Gray Jerome, Anatol Kontush, M John Chapman, Linda K Curtiss, Timothy J Hodges & W Sean Davidson