UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of genetic variation in ABCA1 on cholesterol metabolism, atherosclerosis and diabetes Brunham, Liam Robert


The ATP-binding cassette transporter, sub-family A, member 1 (ABCA1) mediates the major pathway for cholesterol exit from non-hepatic cells and thereby controls the rate-limiting step in the biogenesis of high density lipoprotein (HDL) particles. In humans,ABCA1 deficiency results in Tangier disease, characterized by low levels of HDL cholesterol, cellular cholesterol accumulation and increased risk for atherosclerosis. More than 100 coding variants have been described in the ABCA1 gene. We attempted to understand how both naturally occurring and engineered mutations in ABCA1 impact its role in cholesterol transport in a variety of in vitro and in vivo systems. We attempted to correlate specific genetic variants in ABCA 1 with phenotypes in patients carrying the sevariants, and used an evolutionary approach to predict which specific variants in ABCA1would impact its function. We then turned to the study of tissue-specific genetic deletion of ABCA1 in mice to study its role in HDL biogenesis, atherosclerosis and glucose metabolism. We found that intestinal ABCA1 is an important site of HDL biogenesis and that activation of intestinal ABCA1 raises HDL levels in vivo. Hepatic ABCA1, which is a major site of HDL biogenesis, was shown to significantly contribute to susceptibility to atherosclerosis. Finally, we show that ABCA1 plays an unsuspected role in B-cell function and insulin secretion. These studies have contributed to our understanding of the impact of genetic variation in ABCA1 on diverse biological and pathological processes, and have identified novel aspects of ABCA 1 function in specific cell types.

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