Cholesterol Homeostasis: An In Silico Investigation into How Aging Disrupts Its Key Hepatic Regulatory Mechanisms
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractThe dysregulation of intracellular cholesterol homeostasis is associated with several age-related diseases, most notably cardiovascular disease (CVD). Research in this area has benefitted from using computational modelling to study the inherent complexity associated with the regulation of this system. In addition to facilitating hypothesis exploration, the utility of modelling lies in its ability to represent an array of rate limiting enzymatic reactions, together with multiple feedback loops, which collectively define the dynamics of cholesterol homeostasis. However, to date no model has specifically investigated the effects aging has on this system. This work addresses this shortcoming by explicitly focusing on the impact of aging on hepatic intracellular cholesterol homeostasis. The model was used to investigate the experimental findings that reactive oxygen species induce the total activation of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase (HMGCR). Moreover, the model explored the impact of an age-related decrease in hepatic acetyl-CoA acetyltransferase 2 (ACAT2). The model suggested that an increase in the activity of HMGCR does not have as significant an impact on cholesterol homeostasis as a decrease in hepatic ACAT2 activity. According to the model, a decrease in the activity of hepatic ACAT2 raises free cholesterol (FC) and decreases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. Increased acetyl CoA synthesis resulted in a reduction in the number of hepatic low-density lipoprotein receptors, and increased LDL-C, FC, and cholesterol esters. The rise in LDL-C was restricted by elevated hepatic FC accumulation. Taken together these findings have important implications for healthspan. This is because emerging clinical data suggest hepatic FC accumulation is relevant to the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is associated with an increased risk of CVD. These pathophysiological changes could, in part, help to explain the phenomenon of increased mortality associated with low levels of LDL-C which have been observed in certain studies involving the oldest old (≥ 85 years).
CitationMorgan, A. E., & Mc Auley, M. (2020). Cholesterol homeostasis: An in silico investigation into how aging disrupts its key hepatic regulatory mechanisms. Biology, 9(10), e314. doi:10.3390/biology9100314
DescriptionCardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. High blood cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of this condition. How high levels of blood cholesterol result in cardiovascular disease during aging is a difficult question to answer. Computational models have been used over the years to help understand this problem, as they are capable of representing complex systems such as this. The aim of this work was to use a computational model of cholesterol metabolism to better understand why, in certain studies involving the oldest old (persons ≥ 85 years), high blood cholesterol levels have been associated with a decreased risk of death. Using our computational model, we found that key age-associated changes to how cholesterol is processed in the liver could be responsible for this observation. The findings from our work contribute to our understanding of cholesterol metabolism in older people and how treatments could be developed in the future to promote healthy aging.
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