The activity of the enzyme lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) and the properties of its lipoprotein substrates have been investigated in 6- and 19-month-old Fischer-344 rats. These studies were carried out to determine the nature of the relationship between the observed hypercholesterolemia and the age-related decrease in the fractional rate of lipoprotein cholesterol esterification. The distribution of LCAT activity of plasma fractions was determined following gel chromatography and ultracentrifugation respectively. LCAT activity was found to be associated with the high density lipoprotein (HDL) fraction when rat plasma was passed through a Bio-Gel A-5 M column. Upon density gradient ultracentrifugation for 24 h it was found associated with HDL fraction; d = 1.125-1.21 g/ml. However, following prolonged ultracentrifugation (40 h), the majority of the LCAT activity was displaced into the lipoprotein-free infranatant (d > 1.225 g/ml). The dissociation of LCAT from its complex with HDL occurred to a smaller extent in aged rat plasma than in young rat plasma. Substrate specificity studies indicated that HDL was a considerably better substrate for LCAT than very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) in both young and aged rats. In addition, HDL from young rats was a better substrate for LCAT than the HDL from aged rats. Incubation experiments followed by the isolation of lipoproteins and the subsequent analyses of their cholesterol contents revealed that the age-related hypercholesterolemia was mainly due to an increase in the cholesterol carried by lipoprotein fractions d = 1.025-1.07 g/ml (LDL + HDL1). These and other low density lipoproteins d < 1.025 g/ml) were poor substrates for LCAT. However, these lipoproteins could provide free cholesterol for esterification by first transferring it to HDL (d = 1.07-1.21). The HDL isolated from the plasma of aged rats was enriched with apolipoprotein (apo) E and these lipoprotein particles were found to be inferior substrates for LCAT. These data suggest that the decreased fractional rate of esterification observed in aged rats is due to the slower utilization of the HDL lipid substrate pool by the enzyme LCAT as a result of the accumulation of unfavorable substrates (compositionally altered HDL particles) for the LCAT reaction.
- Plasma LCAT