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Acta Naturae. 2016 Jan-Mar;8(1):58-73.

Brain Cholesterol Metabolism and Its Defects: Linkage to Neurodegenerative Diseases and Synaptic Dysfunction.

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Kazan Medical University, Department of Normal Physiology, Butlerova str. 49, Kazan, Russia, 420012.


Cholesterol is an important constituent of cell membranes and plays a crucial role in the compartmentalization of the plasma membrane and signaling. Brain cholesterol accounts for a large proportion of the body's total cholesterol, existing in two pools: the plasma membranes of neurons and glial cells and the myelin membranes . Cholesterol has been recently shown to be important for synaptic transmission, and a link between cholesterol metabolism defects and neurodegenerative disorders is now recognized. Many neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by impaired cholesterol turnover in the brain. However, at which stage the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway is perturbed and how this contributes to pathogenesis remains unknown. Cognitive deficits and neurodegeneration may be associated with impaired synaptic transduction. Defects in cholesterol biosynthesis can trigger dysfunction of synaptic transmission. In this review, an overview of cholesterol turnover under physiological and pathological conditions is presented (Huntington's, Niemann-Pick type C diseases, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome). We will discuss possible mechanisms by which cholesterol content in the plasma membrane influences synaptic processes. Changes in cholesterol metabolism in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and autistic disorders are beyond the scope of this review and will be summarized in our next paper.


cholesterol; lipid rafts; neurodegenerative disease; oxysterols; synaptic transmission


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