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Apolipoprotein E Isoforms and AMD


The cholesterol transporting protein apolipoprotein E (ApoE) occurs in three allelic variants in humans unlike in other species. The resulting protein isoforms E2, E3 and E4 exhibit differences in lipid binding, integrating into lipoprotein particles and affinity for lipoprotein receptors. ApoE isoforms confer genetic risk for several diseases of aging including atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A single E4 allele increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, whereas the E2 allele is protective. Intriguingly, the E4 allele is protective in AMD. Current thinking about different functions of ApoE isoforms comes largely from studies on Alzheimer's disease. These data cannot be directly extrapolated to AMD since the primary cells affected in these diseases (neurons vs. retinal pigment epithelium) are so different. Here, we propose that ApoE serves a fundamentally different purpose in regulating cholesterol homeostasis in the retinal pigment epithelium and this could explain why allelic risk factors are flipped for AMD compared to Alzheimer's disease.

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