Nonhuman primates consuming diets containing cholesterol develop coronary artery atherosclerosis that we have found to be highly correlated with an increase in the size and cholesteryl ester content of plasma low density lipoproteins (LDL). The present studies were designed to determine whether the enlarged plasma LDL are produced directly by the liver of cholesterol-fed monkeys. African green monkeys were fed a diet containing 40% of calories as butter fat and either 0.16 mg cholesterol/kcal (control diet) or 0.78 mg cholesterol/kcal (test diet). The livers of these monkeys were perfused by recirculation with a lipoprotein-free medium for 4 h. The rate of accumulation of perfusate cholesterol was linear and greater in liver perfusates from test diet-fed vs. control diet-fed monkeys and was positively correlated with both the plasma cholesterol concentration and LDL size in the donor animal. All perfusate d less than 1.063 g/ml lipoprotein subfractions from livers of test diet-fed monkeys were enriched in cholesteryl ester severalfold over the corresponding subfractions from control diet-fed monkeys and contained only the larger form of apolipoprotein B typical of plasma LDL. However, the perfusate lipoproteins in the LDL density range did not have an average size or composition typical of LDL from plasma. Rather, they were relatively enriched in phospholipid and unesterified cholesterol and were deficient in cholesteryl esters. In addition, perfusate high density lipoproteins were discoidal particles. These data show that the enzyme lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) was essentially inactive in these perfusates and, as a result, the dietary cholesterol-induced enrichment of perfusate d less than 1.063 g/ml lipoproteins with cholesteryl esters probably resulted from increased hepatic secretion of cholesteryl esters and not from modification of lipoproteins by LCAT during recirculating perfusion. In spite of this increase, enlarged cholesteryl ester-rich LDL were not found in the perfusate, suggesting that large molecular weight plasma LDL are not directly secreted by the liver but instead probably result from further intravascular metabolism of cholesteryl ester-enriched hepatic precursor lipoproteins.
F L Johnson, R W St Clair, L L Rudel