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The ontogeny of acyl coenzyme A: cholesterol acyltransferase in rat liver, intestine, adipose tissue, and aorta Little, Marie-Térèse E.


Epidemiological studies have shown that cholesterol is a major risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis. Since the atherosclerotic plaque develops over a long period interventions early in life may be of some benefit. In addition, it has been shown that the enzymes involved in cholesterol metabolism can be manipulated in early life. Therefore, studies of the developmental patterns of the key enzymes in cholesterol metabolism are of great importance. Acyl coenzyme A: cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT) is the primary enzyme which catalyzes the conversion of free cholesterol to cholesterol esters in cells. A better understanding of the role and control of ACAT during development is needed in order to trace the possible causes in early life that lead to atherosclerosis in the adult. This research focused on the developmental pattern of ACAT in the rat liver, intestine, brown and white adipose tissue (BAT and WAT, respectively) and aorta. Age specific changes were observed in the rat liver, intestine and BAT. The rat liver and intestine possess significant amounts of ACAT activity throughout development and there appears to be marked variations in activity during this time. The rat BAT and WAT appear to be devoid of ACAT activity throughout development with the exception of adult BAT. Due to the small amount of the aortic tissue samples and/or the insensitivity of the assay, no definite conclusions could be made from this aortic study. In searching for factors that might control the ACAT enzyme the immediate effects of short-term manipulation of diet on the activity of ACAT were studied. The rats were all weaned early on day 18 to one of the following diets: Purina Rat Chow, high carbohydrate (HG) , high fat (HF) , or 2% cholesterol. The HF was the only diet that consistently increased hepatic ACAT activity in all the age groups. The cholesterol diets significantly increased the activity of ACAT in the 22 and 25 day old rats. The HG diet increased the activity of ACAT in the 22, 25, and 30 day old rats. No significant differences were observed between the adult control and HG diet groups. Feeding rats a HF or HG diet precipitated a dramatic drop in intestinal ACAT activity in the 22 day old animals. These effects were not observed in the older animals. The high cholesterol diet had no significant effect on the intestinal enzyme's activity in 22 day old rats. There was no significant change in the BAT and WAT ACAT activity with the experimental diets with the exception that all the experimental diets decreased ACAT activity in the adult BAT.

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