ATP binding cassette A1 (ABCA1) mediates microparticle formation during high-density lipoprotein (HDL) biogenesis


      • Microparticles are produced by a variety of cell lines, including macrophages.
      • The ABCA1 transporter and apoA-I stimulate microparticle release from cells.
      • Microparticles contribute approximately 30% of cell cholesterol efflux in peripheral cells.
      • Microparticles show size heterogeneity and contain flotillin and CD63 markers of exosomes.


      Background and aims

      Micro-particles (MP) are secreted by various cells. Their biological roles in health and in disease remain unknown. Here we describe formation of MP in the process of ABCA1-dependent cholesterol efflux in different cell types.


      The ATP-binding cassette transporter, subfamily A, member 1 (ABCA1) is the rate-limiting step in the biogenesis of high-density lipoproteins (HDL). We have found that ABCA1 and apoA-I contribute to the formation of MP. Using cell-based systems with overexpression and selective inactivation of ABCA1, pharmacological blockade and modulation of membrane cholesterol content, we characterized MP release from various cell lines. We studied MP release in BHK cells stably expressing ABCA1 under mifepristone control, human THP-1 macrophages and HepG2 cells without, or with incubation with human apoA-I.


      ABCA1 mediates the production of MPs containing cholesterol. This was also confirmed in primary human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs). Adding apoA-I markedly increases MP release from cells. Inhibition of ABCA1 with probucol or decreasing plasma membrane cholesterol with methyl-β cyclodextrin (CDX) markedly reduced MP release and nascent HDL formation. MPs do not contain apoA-I, but contain flotilin-2, a marker of plasma membrane, and CD63, an exosome marker. MPs exhibit considerable size heterogeneity (50–250 nm).


      We show that MPs are lipoprotein-sized structures created by the ABCA1 transporter, and contribute approximately 30% of ABCA1-and apoA-I mediated cholesterol efflux. In addition, we found that MPs release from cells consists, in part, of exosomes and depends on the same pathway used for HDL biogenesis.


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