Dual Mechanisms for the Low Plasma Levels of Truncated Apolipoprotein B Proteins in Familial Hypobetalipoproteinemia: Analysis of a New Mouse Model with a Nonsense Mutation in the Apob Gene

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Familial hypobetalipoproteinemia (FHbeta), a syndrome characterized by low plasma cholesterol levels, is caused by mutations in the apo-B gene that interfere with the synthesis of apo-B100. FHbeta mutations frequently lead to the synthesis of a truncated form of apo-B, which typically is present in plasma at < 5% of the levels of apo-B100. Although many FHbeta mutations have been characterized, the basic mechanisms causing the low plasma levels of truncated apo-B variants have not been defined. We used gene targeting to create a mutant allele that exclusively yields a truncated apo-B, apo-B83. In mice heterozygous for the Apob83 allele, plasma levels and the size and density distribution of apo-B83-containing lipoproteins were strikingly similar to those observed in humans with FHbeta and an apo-B83 mutation. Analysis of mice carrying the Apob83 mutation revealed two mechanisms for the low plasma levels of apo-B83. First, Apob83 mRNA levels and apo-B83 secretion were reduced 76 and 72%, respectively. Second, apo-B83 was removed rapidly from the plasma, compared with apo-B100. This mouse model provides a new level of understanding of FHbeta and adds new insights into apo-B metabolism. (J. Clin. Invest. 1998. 101:1468-1477.)

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