High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is believed to be preferentially utilized for bile acid synthesis and biliary secretion. In mice, the deletion of apolipoprotein AI (apo AI), the major apolipoprotein in HDL, results in very low plasma HDL-cholesterol levels. This article describes bile acid metabolism in apo AI-deficient (Apo AI(-/-)) mice and their C57BL/6 (Apo AI(+/+)) controls fed either a basal rodent diet alone or containing cholesterol or cholestyramine. Basal plasma HDL-cholesterol levels in the (-/-) mice (<10 mg/dL) were less than 20% of those in their (+/+) controls, but there were no phenotypic differences in either the relative cholesterol content of gallbladder bile, bile acid pool size and composition, fecal bile acid excretion or the activity of, or mRNA level for, cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase. However, compared with their (+/+) controls, the (-/-) mice absorbed more cholesterol (33 vs. 24%) and manifested lower rates of hepatic sterol synthesis (534 vs. 1,019 nmol/h per g). Cholesterol feeding increased hepatic cholesterol levels in the (+/+) animals from 2.7 to 4.4 mg/g and in the (-/-) mice from 2.6 to 8.1 mg/g. Bile acid synthesis increased 70% in both genotypes. Cholestyramine feeding stimulated bile acid synthesis 3.7 fold in both (-/-) and (+/+) mice. We conclude that the virtual loss of HDL-cholesterol from the circulation in apo AI deficiency has no impact on the ability of the hepatocyte to adapt its rate of bile acid synthesis in concert with the amount of cholesterol and bile acid returning to the liver from the small intestine.
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