Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) is the enzyme that facilitates the transfer of cholesteryl ester from high density lipoprotein (HDL) to apolipoprotein B (apoB)-containing lipoproteins. However, the exact role of CETP in the development of atherosclerosis has not been determined. In the present study, we examined the effect of the suppression of increased plasma CETP by intravenous injection with antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) against CETP targeted to the liver on the development of atherosclerosis in rabbits fed a cholesterol diet. The ODNs against rabbit CETP were coupled to asialoglycoprotein (ASOR) carrier molecules, which serve as an important method to regulate liver gene expression. Twenty-two male Japanese White rabbits were used in the experiment. Eighteen animals were fed a standard rabbit chow supplemented with 0.3% cholesterol throughout the experiment for 16 weeks. At 8 weeks, they were divided into three groups (six animals in each group), among which the plasma total and HDL cholesterol concentrations did not significantly change. The control group received nothing, the sense group were injected with the sense ODNs complex, and the antisense group were injected with the antisense ODNs complex, respectively, for subsequent 8 weeks. ASOR·poly(L-lysine) ODNs complex were injected via the ear veins twice a week. Four animals were fed a standard rabbit diet for 16 weeks. The total cholesterol concentrations and the CETP mass in the animals injected with antisense ODNs were all significantly decreased in 12 and 16 weeks compared with those injected with sense ODNs and the control animals. The HDL cholesterol concentrations measured by the precipitation assay did not significantly change among the groups fed a cholesterol diet, and triglyceride concentrations did not significantly change in the four groups. However, at the end of the study, when the HDL cholesterol concentrations were measured after the isolation by ultracentrifugation and a column chromotography, they were significantly higher in the animals injected with antisense ODNs than in the animals injected with sense ODNs and in the control animals. A reduction of CETP mRNA and an increase of LDL receptor mRNA in the liver were observed in the animals injected with antisense ODNs compared with those injected with sense ODNs and the control animals. Aortic cholesterol contents and the aortic percentage lesion to total surface area were significantly lower in the animals injected with antisense ODNs than in the animals injected with sense ODNs and in the control animals. These findings showed for the first time that suspension of increased plasma CETP by the injection with antisense ODNs against CETP coupled to ASOR carrier molecules targeted to the liver thus inhibit the ahterosclerosis possibly by decreasing the plasma LDL + very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol- fed rabbits.
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