2017 George Lyman Duff Memorial Lecture: Fat in the Blood, Fat in the Artery, Fat in the Heart Triglyceride in Physiology and Disease

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Cholesterol is not the only lipid that causes heart disease. Triglyceride supplies the heart and skeletal muscles with highly efficient fuel and allows for the storage of excess calories in adipose tissue. Failure to transport, acquire, and use triglyceride leads to energy deficiency and even death. However, overabundance of triglyceride can damage and impair tissues. Circulating lipoprotein-associated triglycerides are lipolyzed by lipoprotein lipase (LpL) and hepatic triglyceride lipase. We inhibited these enzymes and showed that LpL inhibition reduces high-density lipoprotein cholesterol by >50%, and hepatic triglyceride lipase inhibition shifts low-density lipoprotein to larger, more buoyant particles. Genetic variations that reduce LpL activity correlate with increased cardiovascular risk. In contrast, macrophage LpL deficiency reduces macrophage function and atherosclerosis. Therefore, muscle and macrophage LpL have opposite effects on atherosclerosis. With models of atherosclerosis regression that we used to study diabetes mellitus, we are now examining whether triglyceride-rich lipoproteins or their hydrolysis by LpL affect the biology of established plaques. Following our focus on triglyceride metabolism led us to show that heart-specific LpL hydrolysis of triglyceride allows optimal supply of fatty acids to the heart. In contrast, cardiomyocyte LpL overexpression and excess lipid uptake cause lipotoxic heart failure. We are now studying whether interrupting pathways for lipid uptake might prevent or treat some forms of heart failure.

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