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We describe a child, the issue of phenotypically normal parents, who had fat malabsorption, both intestinal and hepatic steatosis, and serum cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations of 38 and 63 mg/dl, respectively. Lipoprotein electrophoresis, Ouchterlony double diffusion, and electron microscopy demonstrated that normal low density lipoproteins (LDL: 1.006 less than rho less than 1.063 g/ml) were absent. Lipoprotein particles in the rho less than 1.006-g/ml fraction were triglyceride rich, very large (93.2 +/- 35.1 nm), and contained the B-48 but not the B-100 apoprotein; both species of apolipoprotein (apo) B were found in the parents' lipoproteins. These chylomicrons and chylomicron remnants were present even in the patient's fasting plasma, which suggested prolonged dietary fat absorption. Plasma levels of high density lipoprotein lipids and proteins were low, and the phosphatidylcholine/sphingomyelin ratio was reduced as in typical abetalipoproteinemia. The monosialylated form of apo C-III was not identified on polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, which suggested that this protein was elaborated only with very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). A radioimmunoassay for apo B employing a polyclonal antisera to plasma LDL gave apparent plasma apo B levels of 0.6, 66, and 57 mg/dl in the patient and his father and mother, respectively. The displacement curve generated by the parents' VLDL and LDL did not did not differ from control lipoproteins. The patient's chylomicron-chylomicron remnant fraction displaced normal LDL over the entire radioimmunoassay range, but the efficiency of displacement was strikingly less than with B-100 containing lipoproteins. If the patient's B-48 protein is not qualitatively abnormal, these results confirm very limited immunochemical cross-reactivity between at least one major epitope on B-100 and the epitopes expressed on B-48. The apo B defect in this patient appears to be recessive. It abolishes B-100 production and may additionally limit the formation of B-48.