Palmitoylation of ABCA1 and its effect on localization and function

Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease caused by the buildup of plaque (fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and other substances) in the inner lining of the arteries. This plaque buildup can lead to heart attack, stroke or gangrene. Research has shown that high-density lipoproteins (HDL) remove excess cholesterol from plaque by transporting cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, thus slowing the buildup. Higher levels of HDL seem to be protective against coronary artery disease, and thus HDL is sometimes referred to as “”good”” cholesterol. Dr. Roshni Singaraja is researching the role of the newly-discovered gene ABCA1, whose function is to to produce HDL. Specifically, she is investigating the role of the palmitoylation process (the attachment of palmitate – fatty acids – to proteins which acts as a signal for the protein to be transported) on ABCA1 and its function. In addition, Roshni will examine the function of ABCA1 in the brain and the impact of palmitoylation on these functions. Roshni’s research may lead to potential strategies to increase HDL production and to accelerate or reverse cholesterol transport in order to prevent atherosclerosis.