Molecular structures of human ACAT2 disclose mechanism for selective inhibition

Tao Long, Yang Liu, Xiaochun Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Endoplasmic reticulum-localized acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferases (ACAT), including ACAT1 and ACAT2, convert cholesterol to cholesteryl esters that become incorporated into lipoproteins or stored in cytosolic lipid droplets. Selective inhibition of ACAT2 has been shown to considerably attenuate hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis in mice. Here, we report cryogenic electron microscopy structures of human ACAT2 bound to its specific inhibitor pyripyropene A or the general ACAT inhibitor nevanimibe. Structural analysis reveals that ACAT2 has a topology in membranes similar to that of ACAT1. A catalytic core with an entry site occupied by a cholesterol molecule and another site for allosteric activation of ACAT2 is observed in these structures. Enzymatic assays show that mutations within sites of cholesterol entry or allosteric activation attenuate ACAT2 activity in vitro. Together, these results reveal mechanisms for ACAT2-mediated esterification of cholesterol, providing a blueprint to design new ACAT2 inhibitors for use in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1410-1418.e4
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2 2021


  • ACAT
  • cardiovascular disease
  • cryo-EM
  • drug development
  • nevanimibe
  • pyripyropene A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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