Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) mediates the exchange of triglycerides (TGs), cholesteryl esters (CEs) and phospholipids (PLs) between lipoproteins in the plasma. In order to better understand the lipid transfer process, we have used recombinant human CETP expressed in cultured mammalian cells, purified to homogeneity by immunoaffinity chromatography. Purified recombinant CETP had a weight-average relative molecular mass (Mw) of 69561, determined by sedimentation equilibrium, and a specific absorption coefficient of 0.83 litre·g-1· cm-1. The corresponding hydrodynamic diameter (Dh) of the protein, determined by dynamic light scattering, was 14 nm, which is nearly twice the expected value for a spheroidal protein of this molecular mass. These data suggest that CETP has a non-spheroidal shape in solution. The secondary structure of CETP was estimated by CD to contain 32% α-helix, 35% β-sheet, 17% turn and 16% random coil. Like the natural protein from plasma, the recombinant protein consisted of several glycoforms that could be only partially deglycosylated using N-glycosidase F. Organic extraction of CETP followed by TLC showed that CE, unesterified cholesterol (UC), PL, TG and fatty acids (FA) were associated with the pure protein. Quantitative analyses verified that each mol of CETP contained 1.0 mol of cholesterol, 0.5 mol of TG and 1.3 mol of PL. CETP mediated the transfer of CE, TG, PL, and UC between lipoproteins, or between protein-free liposomes. In dual-label transfer experiments, the transfer rates for CE or TG from HDL to LDL were found to be proportional to the initial concentrations of the respective ligands in the donor HDL particles. Kinetic analysis of CE transfer was consistent with a carrier mechanism, having a Km of 700 nM for LDL particles and of 2000 nM for HDL particles, and a kcat of 2 s-1. The Km values were thus in the low range of the normal physiological concentration for each substrate. The carrier mechanism was verified independently for CE, TG, PL and UC in ‘half-reaction’ experiments.

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