The E4 variant of APOE strongly predisposes individuals to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. We demonstrate that in response to lipogenesis, apolipoprotein E (APOE) in astrocytes can avoid translocation into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) lumen and traffic to lipid droplets (LDs) via membrane bridges at ER–LD contacts. APOE knockdown promotes fewer, larger LDs after a fatty acid pulse, which contain more unsaturated triglyceride after fatty acid pulse-chase. This LD size phenotype was rescued by chimeric APOE that targets only LDs. Like APOE depletion, APOE4-expressing astrocytes form a small number of large LDs enriched in unsaturated triglyceride. Additionally, the LDs in APOE4 cells exhibit impaired turnover and increased sensitivity to lipid peroxidation. Our data indicate that APOE plays a previously unrecognized role as an LD surface protein that regulates LD size and composition. APOE4 causes aberrant LD composition and morphology. Our study contributes to accumulating evidence that APOE4 astrocytes with large, unsaturated LDs are sensitized to lipid peroxidation, which could contribute to Alzheimer’s disease risk.

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