At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
To help evaluate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD); sometimes to help monitor treatment for high cholesterol or to help diagnose a rare inherited apolipoprotein B (apo B) deficiency
When to Get Tested?
When you have a personal or family history of heart disease and/or high cholesterol and triglyceride levels and your health care provider is trying to determine your risk of developing CVD; sometimes on a regular basis when you are being treated for high cholesterol; rarely when your health practitioner suspects that you have an inherited apo B deficiency
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm
Test Preparation Needed?
None; however, this test is often ordered at the same time as other tests that require fasting, so you may be instructed to fast for 12 hours prior to having this test.
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
Apolipoprotein B-100 (also called apolipoprotein B or apo B) is a protein that is involved in the metabolism of lipids and is the main protein constituent of lipoproteins such as very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the "bad cholesterol"). This test measures the amount of apo B in the blood.
Apolipoproteins combine with lipids to transport them throughout the bloodstream. Apolipoproteins provide structural integrity to lipoproteins and shield the water-repellent (hydrophobic) lipids at their center. Most lipoproteins are cholesterol- or triglyceride-rich and carry lipids through the body for uptake by cells.
Chylomicrons are the lipoprotein particles that carry dietary lipids from the digestive tract, via the bloodstream, to tissue – mainly the liver. In the liver, the body repackages these dietary lipids and combines them with apo B-100 to form triglyceride-rich VLDL. This combination is like a taxi full of passengers with apo B-100 as the taxi driver. In the bloodstream, the taxi moves from place to place, releasing one passenger at a time.
An enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) removes triglycerides from VLDL to produce intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL) first and then LDL. Each VLDL particle contains one molecule of apo B-100, which is retained as VLDL loses triglycerides and shrinks to become the more cholesterol-rich LDL. Apo B-100 is recognized by receptors found on the surface of many of the body's cells. These receptors promote the uptake of cholesterol into the cells.
The cholesterol that LDL and apo B-100 transport is vital for cell membrane integrity, sex hormone production, and steroid production. In excess, however, LDL can lead to fatty deposits (plaques) in artery walls and lead to hardening and scarring of the blood vessels. These fatty depositions narrow the vessels in a process termed atherosclerosis. The atherosclerotic process increases the risk of heart attack.
Apo B-100 levels tend to mirror LDL-C levels, a test routinely ordered as part of a lipid profile. Many experts think that apo B levels may eventually prove to be a better indicator of risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) than LDL-C. Others disagree; they feel that apo B is only a marginally better alternative and do not recommend its routine use. The clinical utility of apo B and that of other emerging cardiac risk markers such as apo A-I, Lp(a), and hs-CRP has yet to be fully established.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.
Sources Used in Current Review
Zieve, D. (Updated 2012 June 4). Apolipoprotein B100. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003502.htm through http://www.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed March 2014.
Zieve, D. (Updated 2012 June 4). Familial combined hyperlipidemia. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000396.htm through http://www.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed March 2014.
(© 1995–2014). Apolipoprotein B, Plasma. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/80308 through http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com. Accessed March 2014.
Delgado, J. et. al. (Updated 2014 February). Cardiovascular Disease (Non-traditional Risk Markers) - Risk Markers - CVD (Non-traditional) ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/CVDRiskMarkerNontrad.html?client_ID=LTD through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed March 2014.
Ford, E. et. al. (2013). Temporal Changes in Concentrations of Lipids and Apolipoprotein B Among Adults With Diagnosed and Undiagnosed Diabetes, Prediabetes, and Normoglycemia Findings From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1988-1991 to 2005-2008. Medscape Multispecialty from Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2013;12(26) [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/781844 through http://www.medscape.com. Accessed March 2014.
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Sources Used in Previous Reviews
Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition].
Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.
Apolipoprotein B Mutation Detection. ARUP's Guide to Clinical Laboratory Testing (CLT) [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arup-lab.com/guides/clt/tests/clt_al68.htm#1872677 through http://www.arup-lab.com.
Angelo, S., Reviewed (2001 November 21, Reviewed). Apolipoprotein B100. University of Pennsylvania Health System Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.pennhealth.com/ency/article/003502.htm through http://www.pennhealth.com.
Gianturco, S. & Bradley, W. (1999). Pathophysiology of Triglyceride-Rich Lipoproteins in Atherothrombosis: Cellular Aspects. Clin. Cardiol. 22, (Suppl. 11) 11-7-11-14 [On-line Journal]. PDF available for download at http://www.clinicalcardiology.org/supplements/CC22S2/CC22S207.pdf through http://www.clinicalcardiology.org.
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