High levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol have been reported to protect against the development of atherosclerosis in humans by increasing reverse cholesterol transport and inhibiting the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) due to the paraoxonase content of HDL. The purpose of the present study was to assess if there are any relationships between in vivo increases in serum levels of immunological LDL oxidation markers [autoantibodies against oxidized LDL, autoantibodies against malondialdehyde-modified LDL, LDL immune complexes and anti-cardiolipin autoantibodies], paraoxonase activity and the development of atherosclerosis in control rabbits and in transgenic rabbits expressing human apolipoprotein (apo) A-I. A total of 13 apo A-I transgenic rabbits and 18 non-transgenic littermates were fed on a cholesterol-rich diet (0.4%, w/w) for 14 weeks, and were monitored at weeks 0, 2, 6, 10 and 14. Aortic atherosclerotic lesions were measured at the end of this period. Human apo A-I transgenic rabbits with high HDL cholesterol levels were not protected against the development of atherosclerosis when they were fed on a cholesterol-rich diet which induced dramatic hypercholesterolaemia. Immunological markers of LDL oxidation increased and serum paraoxonase activity decreased similarly in control and transgenic rabbits. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates that high HDL cholesterol levels are ineffective in inhibiting increases in immunological markers of LDL oxidation and the development of atherosclerosis in a mammal with severe hypercholesterolaemia.

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