Very low levels of HDL cholesterol and atherosclerosis, a variable relationship – a review of LCAT deficiency
Julia Savel,1,2 Marianne Lafitte,1 Yann Pucheu,1,3 Vincent Pradeau,1 Antoine Tabarin,2,3 Thierry Couffinhal1,3,4
1Centre d'Exploration, de Prévention et de Traitement de l'Athérosclérose, Hôpital Cardiologique, 2Service d'endocrinologie, CHU Bordeaux, Université Bordeaux Segalen, Bordeaux, France; 3Université de Bordeaux Adaptation cardiovasculaire à l'ischémie, 4INSERM, Adaptation cardiovasculaire à l'ischémie, U1034, Pessac, France
Abstract: A number of epidemiological and clinical studies have demonstrated that plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level is a strong inverse predictor of cardiovascular events. HDL is believed to retard the formation of atherosclerotic lesions by removing excess cholesterol from cells and preventing endothelial dysfunction. Lecithin cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) plays a central role in the formation and maturation of HDL, and in the intravascular stage of reverse cholesterol transport: a major mechanism by which HDL modulates the development and progression of atherosclerosis. A defect in LCAT function would be expected to enhance atherosclerosis, by interfering with the reverse cholesterol transport step. As such, one would expect to find more atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events in LCAT-deficient patients. But this relationship is not always evident. In this review, we describe contradictory reports in the literature about cardiovascular risks in this patient population. We discuss the paradoxical finding of severe HDL deficiency and an absence of subclinical atherosclerosis in LCAT-deficient patients, which has been used to reject the hypothesis that HDL level is important in the protection against atherosclerosis. Furthermore, to illustrate this paradoxical finding, we present a case study of one patient, referred for evaluation of global cardiovascular risk in the presence of a low HDL cholesterol level, who was diagnosed with LCAT gene mutations.
Keywords: atherosclerosis, LCAT function, cardiovascular risk, high-density lipoprotein
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