Apolipoprotein E (apoE) deficiency causes severe hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis in humans and in gene-targeted mice. Although the majority of apoE in plasma is of hepatic origin, apoE is synthesized by a variety of cell types, including macrophages. Because macrophages derive from hematopoietic cells, bone marrow transplantation was used to examine the potential of apoE synthesized by bone marrow-derived cells to correct the hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis caused by apoE deficiency. After transplantation of bone marrow from mice with the normal apoE gene into apoE-deficient mice, apoE was detected in serum and promoted clearance of lipoproteins and normalization of serum cholesterol levels. ApoE-deficient mice given transplants of normal bone marrow showed virtually complete protection from diet-induced atherosclerosis.
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