Beyond the genetics of HDL: why is HDL cholesterol inversely related to cardiovascular disease?

J A Kuivenhoven, A K Groen

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There is unequivocal evidence that high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels in plasma are inversely associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Studies of families with inherited HDL disorders and genetic association studies in general (and patient) population samples have identified a large number of factors that control HDL cholesterol levels. However, they have not resolved why HDL cholesterol and CVD are inversely related. A growing body of evidence from nongenetic studies shows that HDL in patients at increased risk of CVD has lost its protective properties and that increasing the cholesterol content of HDL does not result in the desired effects. Hopefully, these insights can help improve strategies to successfully intervene in HDL metabolism. It is clear that there is a need to revisit the HDL hypothesis in an unbiased manner. True insights into the molecular mechanisms that regulate plasma HDL cholesterol and triglycerides or control HDL function could provide the handholds that are needed to develop treatment for, e.g., type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. Especially genome-wide association studies have provided many candidate genes for such studies. In this review we have tried to cover the main molecular studies that have been produced over the past few years. It is clear that we are only at the very start of understanding how the newly identified factors may control HDL metabolism. In addition, the most recent findings underscore the intricate relations between HDL, triglyceride, and glucose metabolism indicating that these parameters need to be studied simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-300
Number of pages16
JournalHandbook of Experimental Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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