Apolipoprotein E inhibits platelet aggregation through the L-arginine:nitric oxide pathway. Implications for vascular disease.
We have previously reported that plasma apolipoprotein (apo) E-containing high density lipoprotein particles have a potent anti-platelet action, apparently by occupying saturable binding sites in the cell surface. Here we show that purified apoE (10-50 microg/ml), complexed with phospholipid vesicles (dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine, DMPC), suppresses platelet aggregation induced by ADP, epinephrine, or collagen. This effect was not due to sequestration of cholesterol from platelet membranes; apoE x DMPC chemically modified with cyclohexanedione (cyclohexanedione-apoE x DMPC) did not inhibit aggregation but nevertheless removed similar amounts of cholesterol as untreated complexes, about 2% during the aggregation period. Rather we found that apoE influenced intracellular platelet signaling. Thus, apoE x DMPC markedly increased cGMP in ADP-stimulated platelets which correlated with the resulting inhibition of aggregation (r = 0.85; p < 0.01, n = 10), whereas cyclohexanedione-apoE x DMPC vesicles had no effect. One important cellular mechanism for up-regulation of cGMP is through stimulation of nitric oxide (NO) synthase, the NO generated by conversion of L-arginine to L-citrulline, binds to and activates guanylate cyclase. This signal transduction pathway was implicated by the finding that NO synthase inhibitors of distinct structural and functional types all reversed the anti-platelet action of apoE, whereas a selective inhibitor of soluble guanylate cyclase, 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo[4,3-a]quinoxalin-1-one (100 nM), had a similar reversing action. Direct confirmation that apoE stimulates NO synthase was obtained by use of L-[3H]arginine; platelets pretreated with apoE x DMPC produced markedly more L-[3H]citrulline (0.71 +/- 0.1 pmol/h/10(9) platelets) than controls (0.18 +/-0.03; p < 0.05). In addition, hemoglobin which avidly binds NO also suppressed the anti-aggregatory effect, indicating that apoE stimulated sufficient production of NO by platelets for extracellular release to occur. We conclude that apoE inhibits platelet aggregation through the L-arginine:NO signal transduction pathway.