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Chylomicrons (from the Greek chylo, meaning juice or milky fluid, and micron, meaning small particle) are lipoprotein particles that consist of triglycerides (85–92%), phospholipids (6–12%), cholesterol (1–3%), and proteins (1–2%). They transport dietary lipids from the intestines to other locations in the body. Chylomicrons are one of the five major groups of lipoproteins (chylomicrons, VLDL, IDL, LDL, HDL) that enable fats and cholesterol to move within the water-based solution of the bloodstream.
Chylomicrons transport exogenous lipids to liver, adipose, cardiac, and skeletal muscle tissue, where their triglyceride components are unloaded by the activity of lipoprotein lipase. As a consequence, chylomicron remnants are left over and are taken up by the liver.
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There are three stages in the chylomicron's "lifecycle":
- Nascent chylomicron
- Mature chylomicron
- Chylomicron remnant
Triglycerides are emulsified by bile and hydrolyzed by the enzyme lipase, resulting in a mixture of fatty acids and monoglycerides. These then pass from the intestinal lumen into the enterocyte, where they are re-esterified to form triacylglycerol. The triacylglycerol is then combined with phospholipids, cholesterol ester, and apolipoprotein B-48 to form a nascent chylomicrons. These are then released by exocytosis from enterocytes into lacteals, lymphatic vessels originating in the villi of the small intestine, and are then secreted into the bloodstream at the thoracic duct's connection with the left subclavian vein.
While circulating in blood, chylomicrons exchange components with high-density lipoproteins (HDL). The HDL donates apolipoprotein C-II (APOC2) and apolipoprotein E (APOE) to the nascent chylomicron and, thus, converts it to a mature chylomicron (often referred to simply as "chylomicron"). APOC2 is the cofactor for lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity.
Once triglyceride stores are distributed, the chylomicron returns APOC2 to the HDL (but keeps APOE), and, thus, becomes a chylomicron remnant, now only 30–50 nm. APOB48 and APOE are important to identify the chylomicron remnant in the liver for endocytosis and breakdown.
- M Mahmood Hussain: "Review Article: A proposed model for the assembly of chylomicrons"; Arterosclerosis; Vol. 148; 2000; pages 1–15;
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