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Purpose of review: To summarize the new articles published in the last year on paraoxonases, including their expression in cardiovascular diseases, and regulation by pharmacological and nutritional means.

Recent findings: The elucidation of the crystal structure of the paraoxonase 1 (PON1) gene, obtained by directed evolution, shows that it consists of a six-bladed [beta]-propeller with a unique active site. PON1 is present in HDL but also in lipoprotein-deficient serum, in VLDL and in chylomicrons. PON1 protects lipids in lipoproteins, in macrophages and in erythrocytes from oxidation. Cellular PON2 and PON3 were also shown to reduce oxidative stress. Beyond its antioxidative properties, PON1 possesses additional antiatherogenic properties against macrophage foam cell formation: attenuation of cholesterol and oxidized lipids influx, inhibition of macrophage cholesterol biosynthesis and stimulation of macrophage cholesterol efflux. The PON1 gene is regulated by Sp1 and protein kinase C, whereas the PON2 gene in macrophages is regulated by nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase. PON1 activity and mass are both reduced in cardiovascular diseases and the hypocholesterolemic drugs, statins, increase serum PON1 activity (by reducing oxidative stress, or by upregulating hepatic PON1 expression). Expression of cellular PON2, like PON1, was upregulated by statins. Nutritional antioxidants, such as polyphenols, increase PON1 mRNA expression and activity, by an aryl hydrocarbon receptor-dependent mechanism.

Summary: The elucidation of PON1 structure and its active center has enabled a better understanding of its mechanism of action, including its physio-pathological substrate(s). Some drugs and nutrients including dietary antioxidants and polyphenols considerably increase the activities of paraoxonases which, in turn, can reduce oxidative stress and atherosclerosis development.

(C) 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.