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Int Rev Cytol. 2008;265:253-85. doi: 10.1016/S0074-7696(07)65007-4.

Characteristics of oxysterol binding proteins.

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Department of Molecular Medicine, National Public Health Institute, Biomedicum, FI-00290 Helsinki, Finland.


Protein families characterized by a ligand binding domain related to that of oxysterol binding protein (OSBP) have been identified in eukaryotic species from yeast to humans. These proteins, designated OSBP-related (ORP) or OSBP-like (OSBPL) proteins, have been implicated in various cellular functions. However, the detailed mechanisms of their action have remained elusive. Data from our and other laboratories suggest that binding of sterol ligands may be a unifying theme. Work with Saccharomyces cerevisiae ORPs suggests a function of these proteins in the nonvesicular intracellular transport of sterols, in secretory vesicle transport from the Golgi complex, and in the establishment of cell polarity. Mammals have more ORP genes, and differential splicing substantially increases the complexity of the encoded protein family. Functional studies on mammalian ORPs point in different directions: integration of sterol and sphingomyelin metabolism, sterol transport, regulation of neutral lipid metabolism, control of the microtubule-dependent motility of endosomes/lysosomes, and regulation of signaling cascades. We envision that during evolution, the functions of ORPs have diverged from an ancestral one in sterol transport, to meet the increasing demand of the regulatory potential in multicellular organisms. Our working hypothesis is that mammalian ORPs mainly act as sterol sensors that relay information to a spectrum of different cellular processes.

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