Lipid uptake and metabolism are central to the function of organs such as heart, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue. Although most heart energy derives from fatty acids (FAs), excess lipid accumulation can cause cardiomyopathy. Similarly, high delivery of cholesterol can initiate coronary artery atherosclerosis. Hearts and arteries - unlike liver and adrenals - have nonfenestrated capillaries and lipid accumulation in both health and disease requires lipid movement from the circulation across the endothelial barrier. This review summarizes recent in vitro and in vivo findings on the importance of endothelial cell receptors and uptake pathways in regulating FAs and cholesterol uptake in normal physiology and cardiovascular disease. We highlight clinical and experimental data on the roles of ECs in lipid supply to tissues, heart, and arterial wall in particular, and how this affects organ metabolism and function. Models of FA uptake into ECs suggest that receptor-mediated uptake predominates at low FA concentrations, such as during fasting, whereas FA uptake during lipolysis of chylomicrons may involve paracellular movement. Similarly, in the setting of an intact arterial endothelial layer, recent and historic data support a role for receptor-mediated processes in the movement of lipoproteins into the subarterial space. We conclude with thoughts on the need to better understand endothelial lipid transfer for fuller comprehension of the pathophysiology of hyperlipidemia, and lipotoxic diseases such as some forms of cardiomyopathy and atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-450
Number of pages18
JournalCirculation research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 5 2021


  • cardiomyopathy
  • chylomicrons
  • fatty acids
  • lipoprotein
  • triglyceride


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