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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000 Jun 26;1486(1):184-97.

Intramitochondrial cholesterol transfer.

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Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock 79430, USA.


Cholesterol serves as the initial substrate for all steroid hormones synthesized in the body regardless of the steroidogenic tissue or final steroid produced. The first steroid formed in the steroidogenic pathway is pregnenolone which is formed by the excision of a six carbon unit from cholesterol by the cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage enzyme system which is located in the inner mitochondrial membrane. It has long been known that the regulated biosynthesis of steroids is controlled by a cycloheximide sensitive factor whose function is to transfer cholesterol from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membrane, thus, the identity of this factor is of great importance. A candidate for the regulatory factor is the mitochondrial protein, the steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein. Cloning and sequencing of the StAR cDNA indicated that it was a novel protein, and transient transfections with the cDNA for the StAR protein resulted in increased steroid production in the absence of stimulation. Mutations in the StAR gene cause the potentially lethal disease congenital lipoid adrenal hyperplasia, a condition in which cholesterol transfer to the cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage enzyme, P450scc, is blocked, filling the cell with cholesterol and cholesterol esters. StAR knockout mice have a phenotype which is essentially identical to the human condition. The cholesterol transferring activity of StAR has been shown to reside in the C-terminal part of the molecule and a protein sharing homology with a region in the C-terminus of StAR has been shown to display cholesterol transferring capacity. Recent evidence has indicated that StAR can act as a sterol transfer protein and it is perhaps this characteristic which allows it to mobilize cholesterol to the inner mitochondrial membrane. However, while it appears that StAR is the acute regulator of steroid biosynthesis via its cholesterol transferring activity, its mechanism of action remains unknown.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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