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Open Access Publications from the University of California

ABCA1 agonist peptides for the treatment of disease.

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Purpose of review

The review summarizes information pertaining to the preclinical development of new apolipoprotein (apo) E mimetic peptides that stimulate cellular cholesterol efflux.

Recent findings

Small α-helical peptides based on the C-terminal domain of apoE have been developed for therapeutic applications. These peptides stimulate cellular cholesterol efflux via the ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) with high potency, like native apolipoproteins on a molar basis. This potent activity has been related to the unique ability of these peptides to maintain α-helix structure upon dilution. Recent structure-activity studies improving the safety features of these mimetic peptides have greatly improved their potential for clinical use. These studies have identified structural features of the class A α-helix motif that induce muscle toxicity and hypertriglyceridemia, which may have implications for the design of other HDL mimetic peptides.


ABCA1 is an integral membrane protein that plays a central role in biology. Its principal function is to mediate the efflux of cholesterol and phospholipid from cells to extracellular apo, preventing a build-up of excess cholesterol in membranes. This process generates HDL particles that perform a variety of functions to protect against disease. A number of these functions can be viewed as directly or indirectly supporting ABCA1 activity, thus constituting a positive feedback system to optimize cellular lipid efflux responses and disease prevention. Consequently, therapeutic approaches that mimic the activities of apos may prove highly effective to combat disease. One such approach involves the use of peptides. The broad biological relevance of ABCA1 suggests these apo mimetic peptides may be useful for the treatment of a number of diseases, such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.

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