alpha-Tocopherol (alpha-T), an important anti-oxidant of plasma lipoproteins and cell membranes, is secreted from liver together with very-low-density lipoproteins into the blood stream. Other serum lipoprotein classes gain alpha-T by exchange and transfer processes. We show here that the lipoprotein-free d > 1.22 g/ml fraction of human or pig serum increases the exchange rate of alpha-T by a factor of 2-4 as compared with spontaneous exchange/transfer. The alpha-T exchange/transfer (alpha-TET) activity was purified by multiple-step column chromatography. It gave a single band in PAGE with an apparent molecular mass of 75 kDa, and was found to be identical with the phospholipid transfer protein (PLTP). PLTP catalysed alpha-T exchange between different lipoprotein classes, as well as the transfer of alpha-T from artificial liposomes to high-density lipoproteins. The alpha-TET activity measured with a newly developed assay in ten healthy people was 2.45 +/- 0.88 nmol.ml-1.h-1.alpha-TET activity was negatively correlated with plasma low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (r = -0.75; P < 0.01). It is concluded that human PLTP catalyses exchange/transfer processes of alpha-T between lipid compartments. This factor may be of relevance in atherogenesis and tumour initiation and growth.

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