Lipid disorders pose therapeutic challenges. Previously we discovered that mutation of the hepatocyte β-hydroxybutyrate transporter Slc16a6a in zebrafish causes hepatic steatosis during fasting, marked by increased hepatic triacylglycerol, but not cholesterol. This selective diversion of trapped ketogenic carbon atoms is surprising because acetate and acetoacetate can exit mitochondria and can be incorporated into both fatty acids and cholesterol in normal hepatocytes. To elucidate the mechanism of this selective diversion of carbon atoms to fatty acids, we fed wild-type and slc16a6a mutant animals high-protein ketogenic diets. We find that slc16a6a mutants have decreased activity of the rate-limiting enzyme of cholesterol biosynthesis, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (Hmgcr), despite increased Hmgcr protein abundance and relative incorporation of mevalonate into cholesterol. These observations suggest the presence of an endogenous Hmgcr inhibitor. We took a candidate approach to identify such inhibitors. First, we found that mutant livers accumulate multiple polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and PUFA-CoAs, and we showed that human HMGCR is inhibited by PUFA-CoAs in vitro. Second, we injected mice with an ethyl ester of the PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid and observed an acute decrease in hepatic Hmgcr activity, without alteration in Hmgcr protein abundance. These results elucidate a mechanism for PUFA-mediated cholesterol lowering through direct inhibition of Hmgcr.
- Received June 19, 2013.
- Accepted September 13, 2013.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.