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Elife. 2017 Apr 17;6. pii: e25466. doi: 10.7554/eLife.25466.

Continuous transport of a small fraction of plasma membrane cholesterol to endoplasmic reticulum regulates total cellular cholesterol.

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Departments of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, United States.
Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, United States.


Cells employ regulated transport mechanisms to ensure that their plasma membranes (PMs) are optimally supplied with cholesterol derived from uptake of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and synthesis. To date, all inhibitors of cholesterol transport block steps in lysosomes, limiting our understanding of post-lysosomal transport steps. Here, we establish the cholesterol-binding domain 4 of anthrolysin O (ALOD4) as a reversible inhibitor of cholesterol transport from PM to endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Using ALOD4, we: (1) deplete ER cholesterol without altering PM or overall cellular cholesterol levels; (2) demonstrate that LDL-derived cholesterol travels from lysosomes first to PM to meet cholesterol needs, and subsequently from PM to regulatory domains of ER to suppress activation of SREBPs, halting cholesterol uptake and synthesis; and (3) determine that continuous PM-to-ER cholesterol transport allows ER to constantly monitor PM cholesterol levels, and respond rapidly to small declines in cellular cholesterol by activating SREBPs, increasing cholesterol uptake and synthesis.


Niemann Pick C; biochemistry; cell biology; cholesterol transport; cholesterol-binding toxin; endoplasmic reticulum; lysosomes; plasma membrane

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