Tocotrienols regulate cholesterol production in mammalian cells by post-transcriptional suppression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase

Parker RA, Pearce BC, Clark RW, Gordon DA, Wright JJ.

Tocotrienols are natural farnesylated analogues of tocopherols which decrease hepatic cholesterol production and reduce plasma cholesterol levels in animals. For several cultured cell types, incubation with gamma-tocotrienol inhibited the rate of [14C]acetate but not [3H] mevalonate incorporation into cholesterol in a concentration- and time-dependent manner, with 50% inhibition at approximately 2 microM and maximum approximately 80% inhibition observed within 6 h in HepG2 cells. 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase total activity and protein levels assayed by Western blot were reduced concomitantly with the decrease in cholesterol synthesis. In HepG2 cells, gamma-tocotrienol suppressed reductase despite strong blockade by inhibitors at several steps in the pathway, suggesting that isoprenoid flux is not required for the regulatory effect. HMG-CoA reductase protein synthesis rate was moderately diminished (57% of control), while the degradation rate was increased 2.4-fold versus control (t1/2 declined from 3.73 to 1.59 h) as judged by [35S]methionine pulse-chase/immunoprecipitation analysis of HepG2 cells treated with 10 microM gamma-tocotrienol. Under these conditions, the decrease in reductase protein levels greatly exceeded the minor decrease in mRNA (23 versus 76% of control, respectively), and the low density lipoprotein receptor protein was augmented. In contrast, 25-hydroxycholesterol strongly cosuppressed HMG-CoA reductase protein and mRNA levels and the low density lipoprotein receptor protein. Thus, tocotrienols influence the mevalonate pathway in mammalian cells by post-transcriptional suppression of HMG-CoA reductase, and appear to specifically modulate the intracellular mechanism for controlled degradation of the reductase protein, an activity that mirrors the actions of the putative non-sterol isoprenoid regulators derived from mevalonate.

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