Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) is a type of lipoprotein made by the liver. VLDL is one of the five major groups of lipoproteins (chylomicrons, VLDL, low-density lipoprotein, intermediate-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein) that enable fats and cholesterol to move within the water-based solution of the bloodstream. VLDL is assembled in the liver from triglycerides, cholesterol, and apolipoproteins. VLDL is converted in the bloodstream to low-density lipoprotein (LDL). VLDL particles have a diameter of 30-80 nm. VLDL transports endogenous products, whereas chylomicrons transport exogenous (dietary) products.
Changes during circulation
Nascent VLDL released from the liver contains Apolipoprotein B100, apolipoprotein C1 (apoC1), apolipoprotein E (apoE), cholesterol, cholestryl esters, and triglycerides. As it circulates in blood, it picks up apolipoprotein C-II (apoC-II) and additional apoE donated from high-density lipoprotein (HDL). At this point, nascent VLDL becomes a mature VLDL. Once in circulation, VLDL will come in contact with lipoprotein lipase (LPL) in the capillary beds in the body (adipose, cardiac, and skeletal muscle). LPL will remove triglycerides from VLDL for storage or energy production.
VLDL now meets back up with HDL where apoC-II is transferred back to HDL (but keeps apoE). HDL also transfers cholesteryl esters to the VLDL in exchange for phospholipids and triglycerides via cholesterylester transfer protein (CETP).
As more and more triglycerides are removed from the VLDL because of the action of LPL and CETP enzymes, the composition of the molecule changes, and it becomes intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL).
The other 50% of IDL lose apoE. When their cholesterol content becomes greater than the content of triglyceride, they become LDL, with apoB-100 as the primary apolipoprotein. The LDL is taken into a cell via the LDL receptor via endocytosis, where the contents are either stored, used for cell membrane structure, or converted into other products such as steroid hormones or bile acids.