We investigated the effect of cholesterol feeding on plasma cholesterol concentrations, hepatic activities and mRNA levels of HMG-CoA reductase and cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase and hepatic LDL receptor function and mRNA levels in 23 New Zealand White (NZW) and 17 Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic (WHHL) rabbits. Plasma cholesterol concentrations were 9.9 times greater in WHHL than NZW rabbits and rose significantly in both groups when cholesterol was fed. Baseline liver cholesterol levels were 50% higher but rose only 26% in WHHL as compared with 3.6-fold increase with the cholesterol diet in NZW rabbits. In both rabbit groups, hepatic total HMG-CoA reductase activity was similar and declined > 60% without changing enzyme mRNA levels after cholesterol was fed. In NZW rabbits, cholesterol feeding inhibited LDL receptor function but not mRNA levels. As expected, receptor-mediated LDL binding was reduced in WHHL rabbits. Hepatic cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity and mRNA levels were 2.8 and 10.4 times greater in NZW than WHHL rabbits. Unexpectedly, cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity was reduced 53% and mRNA levels were reduced 79% in NZW rabbits with 2% cholesterol feeding. These results demonstrate that WHHL as compared with NZW rabbits have markedly elevated plasma and higher liver cholesterol concentrations, less hepatic LDL receptor function, and very low hepatic cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity and mRNA levels. Feeding cholesterol to NZW rabbits increased plasma and hepatic concentrations greatly, inhibited LDL receptor-mediated binding, and unexpectedly suppressed cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity and mRNA to minimum levels similar to WHHL rabbits. Dietary cholesterol accumulates in the plasma of NZW rabbits, and WHHL rabbits are hypercholesterolemic because reduced LDL receptor function is combined with decreased catabolism of cholesterol to bile acids.
G Xu, G Salen, S Shefer, G C Ness, L B Nguyen, T S Parker, T S Chen, Z Zhao, T M Donnelly, G S Tint