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J Biol Chem. 1998 Oct 9;273(41):26285-8.

Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) is a sterol transfer protein.

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  • 1Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) plays a critical role in steroidogenesis by enhancing the delivery of substrate cholesterol from the outer mitochondrial membrane to the cholesterol side chain cleavage enzyme system on the inner membrane. A recombinant StAR protein lacking the first N-terminal 62 amino acid residues that includes the mitochondrial targeting sequence was shown to stimulate the transfer of cholesterol and beta-sitosterol from liposomes to heat-treated mitochondria in a dose-, time-, and temperature-dependent manner. A recombinant mutant StAR protein that cannot stimulate steroidogenesis by isolated mitochondria did not promote sterol transfer. Unlike the more promiscuous lipid transfer protein, sterol carrier protein 2 (SCP2), StAR did not stimulate phosphatidylcholine transfer in our assay system. The recombinant StAR protein increased cholesterol transfer to heat-treated microsomes as well as to heat- and trypsin-treated mitochondria. These observations demonstrate that StAR has sterol transfer activity, which may reflect an ability to enhance desorption of cholesterol from sterol-rich donor membranes. We suggest that the ability of StAR to promote sterol transfer explains its steroidogenic activity.

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