Ascorbate at concentrations of 60–100 µM inhibits the modification of freshly prepared low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by macrophages. With ‘moderately oxidized’ LDL (produced by prolonged storage in a refrigerator), however, ascorbate does not inhibit LDL modification by macrophages and actually modifies the LDL itself in the absence of macrophages [Stait and Leake (1994) FEBS Lett. 341, 263–267]. We have now shown that dehydroascorbate can modify both ‘fresh’ LDL and moderately oxidized LDL in a dose-dependent manner to increase its uptake by macrophages. The modification of moderately oxidized LDL by ascorbate and dehydroascorbate or of ‘fresh’ LDL by dehydroascorbate is dependent on the presence of iron or copper. In ‘fresh’ LDL, ascorbate inhibited conjugated-diene formation by copper. In moderately oxidized LDL, the number of conjugated dienes present was decreased rapidly in the presence of copper and ascorbate. Dehydroascorbate decreased the lag phase and increased the rate of copper-induced conjugated-diene formation in ‘fresh’ LDL (although in some experiments it inhibited the formation of conjugated dienes). The ascorbate-modified moderately oxidized LDL was taken up by macrophages by their scavenger receptors, as the uptake was inhibited by polyinosinic acid or fucoidan. Ascorbate and dehydroascorbate therefore have the potential to increase LDL oxidation under certain conditions, but whether or not they do so in vivo is unknown.

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Author notes

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Present address and address for correspondence and offprint orders: Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QP, U.K.