ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters, Atherosclerosis, and Inflammation Academic Article uri icon


  • Although recent genome-wide association studies have called into question the causal relationship between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease, ongoing research in animals and cells has produced increasing evidence that cholesterol efflux pathways mediated by ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters and HDL suppress atherosclerosis. These differing perspectives may be reconciled by a modified HDL theory that emphasizes the antiatherogenic role of cholesterol flux pathways, initiated in cells by ABC transporters. ABCA1 and ABCG1 control the proliferation of hematopoietic stem and multipotential progenitor cells in the bone marrow and hematopoietic stem and multipotential progenitor cell mobilization and extramedullary hematopoiesis in the spleen. Thus, activation of cholesterol efflux pathways by HDL infusions or liver X receptor activation results in suppression of hematopoietic stem and multipotential progenitor cell mobilization and extramedullary hematopoiesis, leading to decreased production of monocytes and neutrophils and suppression of atherosclerosis. In addition, macrophage-specific knockout of transporters has confirmed their role in suppression of inflammatory responses in the arterial wall. Recent studies have also shown that ABCG4, a close relative of ABCG1, controls platelet production, atherosclerosis, and thrombosis. ABCG4 is highly expressed in megakaryocyte progenitors, where it promotes cholesterol efflux to HDL and controls the proliferative responses to thrombopoietin. Reconstituted HDL infusions act in an ABCG4-dependent fashion to limit hypercholesterolemia-driven excessive platelet production, thrombosis, and atherogenesis, as occurs in human myeloproliferative syndromes. Activation of ABC transporter-dependent cholesterol efflux pathways in macrophages, hematopoietic stem and multipotential progenitor cells, or platelet progenitors by reconstituted HDL infusion or liver X receptor activation remain promising approaches to the treatment of human atherothrombotic diseases.


  • Westerterp, Marit
  • Bochem, Andrea E
  • Yvan-Charvet, Laurent
  • Murphy, Andrew J
  • Wang, Nan
  • Tall, Alan R

publication date

  • 2014