Vascular disease is initiated by activation of the endothelium characterized by the predominance of pro-inflammatory and pro-coagulant changes in endothelial cells (ECs) referred to collectively as ‘endothelial dysfunction’. There is increasing evidence that lipoproteins of dietary origin modulate EC function and the use of artificial chylomicron remnant-like particles (CRLPs) in vitro is now beginning to shed light on the molecular mechanisms through which these particles influence cell behaviour. CRLPs enriched in n−6 PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) influence the production of vasoactive mediators by ECs in a pro-inflammatory manner. Thus CRLPs reduce the synthesis and release of nitric oxide and alter the balance of release of vasodilator versus vasoconstrictor eicosanoids. These changes are accompanied by induction of cyclo-oxygenase-2 expression and activity as well as increased expression of adhesion molecules and the antioxidant defence enzyme haem oxygenase-1. CRLPs also activate a number of intracellular signalling pathways, including NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) and MAPKs (mitogen-activated protein kinases), which may be involved in mediating their effects on gene expression. The effects of CRLPs on EC behaviour can also be modulated by the type of fat/oxidation status of the particles. These findings support the hypothesis that lipoproteins of dietary origin directly regulate molecular events in the vascular wall.

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