Human Leukemia Inhibitory Factor Upregulates LDL Receptors on Liver Cells and Decreases Serum Cholesterol in the Cholesterol-Fed Rabbit
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Abstract In a previous study, we found that the cytokine (human) leukemia inhibitory factor (hLIF) significantly reduced plasma cholesterol levels and the accumulation of lipid in aortic tissues of cholesterol-fed rabbits after 4 weeks of treatment. The mechanisms by which this occurs were investigated in the present study. This involved examining the effect of hLIF on (1) the level of plasma cholesterol at different times throughout the 4-week treatment and diet period; (2) smooth muscle cell (SMC) and macrophage-derived foam cell formation in vitro; and (3) LDL receptor expression and uptake in the human hepatoma cell line HepG2. At time zero, an osmotic minipump (2-mL capacity; infusion rate, 2.5 μL/h; 28 days) containing either hLIF (30 μg · kg−1 · d−1) or saline was inserted into the peritoneal cavity of New Zealand White rabbits (N=24). Rabbits were divided into four groups of six animals each. Group 1 received a normal diet/saline; group 2, a normal diet/hLIF; group 3, a 1% cholesterol diet/saline; and group 4, a 1% cholesterol diet/hLIF. hLIF had no effect on the plasma lipids or artery wall of group 2 rabbits (normal diet). However, in group 4 rabbits, plasma cholesterol levels and the percent surface area of thoracic aorta covered by fatty streaks was decreased by ≈30% and 80%, respectively, throughout all stages of the 4-week treatment period. In vitro, hLIF failed to prevent lipoprotein uptake by either SMCs or macrophages (foam cell formation) when the cells were exposed to β-VLDL for 24 hours. In contrast, hLIF (100 ng/mL) added to cultured human hepatoma HepG2 cells induced a twofold or threefold increase in intracellular lipid accumulation in the medium containing 10% lipoprotein-deficient serum or 10% fetal calf serum, respectively. This was accompanied by a significant non–dose-dependent increase in LDL receptor expression in hLIF-treated HepG2 cells incubated with LDL (20 μg/mL) when compared with controls (P<.05) incubated in control medium alone (P<.05). We suggest that the hLIF-induced lowering of plasma cholesterol and tissue cholesterol levels (inhibition of fatty streak formation) in the hyperlipidemic rabbit is due in part to upregulation of hepatic LDL receptors, with resultant increased clearance of lipoprotein-associated cholesterol from the circulation. There is an additional and as-yet-unknown mechanism acting at the level of the vessel wall that appears to be affecting the process of arterial cholesterol accumulation.
- Received December 19, 1995.
- Accepted August 6, 1996.