Oxidative modification of low density lipoproteins (LDL) and their unrestricted scavenger receptor-dependent uptake is believed to account for cholesterol deposition in macrophage-derived foam cells. It has been suggested that vitamin E that is transported by LDL plays a critical role in protecting against LDL oxidation. We hypothesize that the maintenance of sufficiently high vitamin E concentrations in LDL can be achieved by reducing its chromanoxyl radicals, i.e., by vitamin E recycling. In this study we demonstrate that: i) chromanoxyl radicals of endogenous vitamin E and of exogenously added alpha-tocotrienol, alpha-tocopherol or its synthetic homologue with a 6-carbon side-chain, chromanol-alpha-C6, can be directly generated in human LDL by ultraviolet (UV) light, or by interaction with peroxyl radicals produced either by an enzymic oxidation system (lipoxygenase + linolenic acid) or by an azo-initiator, 2,2′-azo-bis(2,4-dimethylvaleronitrile) (AMVN; ii) ascorbate can recycle endogenous vitamin E and exogenously added chromanols by direct reduction of chromanoxyl radicals in LDL; iii) dihydrolipoic acid is not efficient in direct reduction of chromanoxyl radicals but recycles vitamin E by synergistically interacting with ascorbate (reduces dehydroascorbate thus maintaining the steady-state concentration of ascorbate); and iv) beta-carotene is not active in vitamin E recycling but may itself be protected against oxidative destruction by the reductants of chromanoxyl radicals. We suggest that the recycling of vitamin E and other phenolic antioxidants by plasma reductants may be an important mechanism for the enhanced antioxidant protection of LDL.
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