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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A potential role for sterol 27-hydroxylase in atherogenesis.

OBJECTIVE: 27-hydroxycholesterol is the product of the mitochondrial cytochrome P450 sterol 27-hydroxylase, a key enzyme in cholesterol metabolism present in most tissues of the body. 27-hydroxycholesterol increases in abundance with progression of human atherosclerotic lesions, therefore the aim of this study was to determine the pattern of sterol 27-hydroxylase gene expression in normal and diseased arteries and to identify the cell types responsible for its expression. METHODS: Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis and in situ hybridisation, utilising a sterol 27-hydroxylase cDNA probe, and immunohistochemistry, utilising an antibody to sterol 27-hydroxylase, together with an antibody to smooth muscle cell alpha-actin and an antibody to CD68, a marker for macrophages, were used to study expression of 27-hydroxylase in arterial specimens. In addition, RT-PCR was used to study expression of 27-hydroxylase in cultured macrophages and smooth muscle cells. RESULTS: Semi-quantitative RT-PCR analysis of normal and atherosclerotic human aortas showed that 27-hydroxylase is constitutively expressed in the normal artery wall, and is substantially up-regulated in atherosclerosis. RT-PCR analysis of 27-hydroxylase expression in vitro demonstrated that macrophages constitutively express high levels throughout their differentiation in culture whilst de-differentiated vascular smooth muscle cells express very low levels. In situ hybridisation revealed that in normal artery and fatty streaks, expression of mRNA for 27-hydroxylase was low in the media, but higher in intimal smooth muscle cells. The macrophages of fatty streaks expressed low or undetectable levels of 27-hydroxylase. However in advanced lesions the highest expression of 27-hydroxylase was detectable in macrophages. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated that high levels of 27-hydroxylase protein occurred in macrophages near the shoulder region of plaques, at the edge of the lipid core. CONCLUSIONS: 27-hydroxylase may constitute a protective mechanism for removing cholesterol from macrophages and smooth muscle cells. Genetic heterogeneity resulting in differences in sterol 27-hydroxylase activity between individuals may affect their ability to deal with accumulated cholesterol in the arterial intima, and hence their relative degree of predisposition to atherosclerosis.[1]


  1. A potential role for sterol 27-hydroxylase in atherogenesis. Shanahan, C.M., Carpenter, K.L., Cary, N.R. Atherosclerosis (2001) [Pubmed]
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