The risk of atherosclerosis is inversely related to circulating levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Notably, in large-scale epidemiologic studies, this association is independent of plasma levels of low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Pharmacologic agents, such as fibrates and niacin that increase HDL cholesterol levels have been associated with decreased cardiovascular events and beneficial effects on the coronary and carotid arteries. Furthermore, there is evidence that the risk of restenosis following vascular interventions is inversely related to HDL levels. This review considers the available data from mainly murine models on potential mechanisms by which HDL may exert these anti-atherogenic effects, namely through its role in reverse cholesterol transport, its effects on endothelial cells, and its anti-inflammatory/anti-oxidant activities. In addition to discussing a role for HDL in retarding atherosclerosis progression, we will also review how HDL may play a role in promoting regression of atherosclerotic lesions.
Keywords: HDL, atherosclerosis, reverse cholesterol transport, macrophage, endothelium, coronary artery disease, inflammation, regression
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