Triglyceride-rich lipoproteins as a causal factor for cardiovascular disease
Peter P Toth1,2
1Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2Preventive Cardiology, CGH Medical Center, Sterling, IL, USA
Abstract: Approximately 25% of US adults are estimated to have hypertriglyceridemia (triglyceride [TG] level ≥150 mg/dL [≥1.7 mmol/L]). Elevated TG levels are associated with increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, and severe hypertriglyceridemia (TG levels ≥500 mg/dL [≥5.6 mmol/L]) is a well-established risk factor for acute pancreatitis. Plasma TG levels correspond to the sum of the TG content in TG-rich lipoproteins (TRLs; ie, very low-density lipoproteins plus chylomicrons) and their remnants. There remains some uncertainty regarding the direct causal role of TRLs in the progression of atherosclerosis and CVD, with cardiovascular outcome studies of TG-lowering agents, to date, having produced inconsistent results. Although low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) remains the primary treatment target to reduce CVD risk, a number of large-scale epidemiological studies have shown that elevated TG levels are independently associated with increased incidence of cardiovascular events, even in patients treated effectively with statins. Genetic studies have further clarified the causal association between TRLs and CVD. Variants in several key genes involved in TRL metabolism are strongly associated with CVD risk, with the strength of a variant's effect on TG levels correlating with the magnitude of the variant's effect on CVD. TRLs are thought to contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis and CVD via a number of direct and indirect mechanisms. They directly contribute to intimal cholesterol deposition and are also involved in the activation and enhancement of several proinflammatory, proapoptotic, and procoagulant pathways. Evidence suggests that non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the sum of the total cholesterol carried by atherogenic lipoproteins (including LDL, TRL, and TRL remnants), provides a better indication of CVD risk than LDL-C, particularly in patients with hypertriglyceridemia. This article aims to provide an overview of the available epidemiological, clinical, and genetic evidence relating to the atherogenicity of TRLs and their role in the progression of CVD.
Keywords: triglycerides, non-highdensity, lipoprotein cholesterol, hypertriglyceridemia, lipoprotein lipase, chylomicrons, very low-density lipoproteins
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