Lysosomal acid lipase and lipid metabolism: new mechanisms, new questions, and new therapies

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Purpose of review

Lysosomal acid lipase (LAL), encoded by the LIPA gene, is an essential lysosomal enzyme that hydrolyzes cholesteryl ester and triglyceride delivered to the lysosome. This review highlights the novel pathophysiological role of LAL, the functional genomic discoveries of LIPA as a risk locus for coronary heart diseases (CHD), and the clinical advance in therapies for LAL deficiency.

Recent findings

The essential role of LAL in lipid metabolism has been confirmed in human and mice with LAL deficiency. In humans, loss-of-function mutations of LIPA cause rare lysosomal disorders, Wolman disease, and cholesteryl ester storage disease, in which LAL enzyme replacement therapy has shown significant benefits in a phase 3 clinical trial. Recent studies have revealed the role of LAL-mediated lysosomal lipolysis in regulating macrophage M2 polarization, lipid mediator production, VLDL secretion, lysosomal function and autophagy, extracellular degradation of aggregated-LDL, and adipose tissue lipolysis. Genome-wide association studies and functional genomic studies have identified LIPA as a risk locus for CHD, but the causal variants and mechanisms remain to be determined.


Despite years of research, our understanding of LAL is incomplete. Future studies will continue to focus on the key pathophysiological functions of LAL in health and diseases including CHD.

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