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Annu Rev Physiol. 2011;73:239-59. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-012110-142233.

Niemann-pick C1-like 1 (NPC1L1) protein in intestinal and hepatic cholesterol transport.

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  • 1Section on Lipid Sciences, Department of Pathology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157-1040, USA.


Increased blood cholesterol is an independent risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol homeostasis in the body is controlled mainly by endogenous synthesis, intestinal absorption, and hepatic excretion. Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1 (NPC1L1) is a polytopic transmembrane protein localized at the apical membrane of enterocytes and the canalicular membrane of hepatocytes. It functions as a sterol transporter to mediate intestinal cholesterol absorption and counter-balances hepatobiliary cholesterol excretion. NPC1L1 is the molecular target of ezetimibe, a potent cholesterol absorption inhibitor that is widely used in treating hypercholesterolemia. Recent findings suggest that NPC1L1 deficiency or ezetimibe treatment also prevents diet-induced hepatic steatosis and obesity in addition to reducing blood cholesterol. Future studies should focus on molecular mechanisms underlying NPC1L1-dependent cholesterol transport and elucidation of how a cholesterol transporter modulates the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases.

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