Treatment of severe hypercholesterolemia in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice by intramuscular injection of plasmid DNA

M. Rinaldi, A. L. Catapano, P. Parrella, S. A. Ciafrè, E. Signori, D. Seripa, P. Uboldi, R. Antonini, G. Ricci, M. G. Farace, V. M. Fazio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on systemic delivery and long-term biological effects of apolipoprotein E (apoE) obtained by intramuscular (i.m.) plasmid DNA injection. ApoE plays an important role in lipoprotein catabolism and apoE knock-out mice develop severe hypercholesterolemia and diffuse atherosclerosis. We have injected apoE-deficient mice with 80 μg of a plasmid vector (pCMV-E3) encoding the human apoE3 cDNA under the control of the CMV promoter-enhancer in both posterior legs. Local expression of the transgene was demonstrated throughout 16 weeks. Human apoE3 recombinant protein reached 0.6 ng/ml serum level. After i.m. injection of pCMV-E3 expression vector the mean serum cholesterol concentrations decreased from 439±57 mg/dl to 253±99 mg/dl (P <0.05) 2 weeks after injection and persisted at a significantly reduced level throughout the 16 weeks observation period (P <0.005). Serum cholesterol was unaffected and reached an absolute level of 636±67 mg/dl in control groups. Finally, injection of pCMV-E3 into apoE-deficient mice resulted in a redistribution of cholesterol content between lipoprotein fractions, with a marked decrease in VLDL, IDL and LDL cholesterol content and an increase in HDL cholesterol. These results demonstrate that severe hypercholesterolemia in apoE-deficient mice can be effectively reversed by i.m. DNA injection, and indicate that this approach could represent a useful tool to correct several hyperlipidemic conditions resulting in atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1795-1801
Number of pages7
JournalGene Therapy
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Apolipoprotein-E
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Intramuscular injection
  • Long-term gene therapy
  • Plasmid DNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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