, Volume 237, Issue 1-2, pp 155-164

ATP binding cassette transporter A1 - key roles in cellular lipid transport and atherosclerosis

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ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) was recently recognized as the mutant molecule responsible for Tangier disease with low HDL levels, accumulation of cholesteryl esters in tissues, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Extensive studies for the past 2 years have recognized the critical role of ABCA1 in cholesterol and phospholipid trafficking. Since the removal of cholesterol from tissues is a key step in the prevention of atherosclerosis, significant attention has been focused on this molecule. Natural ABCA1 mutations in Tangier disease (TD) patients and WHAM chickens together with induced mutation in ABCA1 knock-out mice unequivocally established the important role of ABCA1 in maintaining circulating HDL levels and promoting cholesterol efflux from the arterial wall. Mice lacking ABCA1 showed similar phenotypes observed in Tangier disease patients with low levels of HDL. Further understanding of the roles of ABCA1 in lipid transport and atherosclerosis became clear from studies with ABCA1 transgenic mice. These mice showed enhanced cholesterol efflux from macrophages and reduced atherosclerotic lesion formation. The promoter of the ABCA1 gene has been mapped to a large extent, with the exception of cAMP response element. The present review summarizes recent developments on the role of ABCA1 in cholesterol efflux and prevention of atherosclerosis. Given the antiatherogenic properties of ABCA1, this molecule can serve as an appropriate target for developing drugs to treat individuals with low levels of HDL.