High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and its related apolipoproteins form part of the reverse cholesterol transport system that removes excessive cholesterol from the periphery to the liver. Many transport proteins and enzymes that are involved in this process are susceptible to genetic defects that influence plasma HDL-C concentrations and HDL function.
The HDL-C concentration in the blood may not be as important as the function of this lipid fraction. The genetic defects affecting plasma HDL-C concentrations do not always show a consistent relationship with atherosclerosis.
Familial hypoalphalipoproteinaemia is associated with mutations in genes responsible for the transport proteins or the enzymes involved in the biogenesis of HDL-C. Inheritance of a Milano mutation of apolipoprotein A1 decreases the risk of atherosclerotic disease despite low circulating levels of HDL-C.
Tangier disease and Fish Eye disease are caused by mutations in the ATP binding cassette A1 (ABCA1), a transport protein, and lecithin cholesterol acyl transferase (LCAT), an enzyme, involved in the esterification of cholesterol, respectively. Patients with these conditions have very low levels of HDL-C concentration. The association between both these conditions and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is variable and inconsistent.
Understanding the molecular mechanism of HDL biogenesis not only helped in defining the pathophysiology of low and high HDL-C syndromes, but also in developing new treatment options to raise HDL-C levels.