Membrane Cholesterol Dynamics: Cholesterol Domains and Kinetic Pools

Friedhelm Schroeder, John R. Jefferson, Ann B. Kier, James Knittel, Terrence J. Scallen, W. Gibson Wood, Ivan Hapala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations


Nonreceptor mediated cholesterol uptake and reverse cholesterol transport in cells occur through cellular membranes. Thus, elucidation of cholesterol dynamics in membranes is essential to understanding cellular cholesterol accumulation and loss. To this end, it has become increasingly evident that cholesterol is not randomly distributed in either model or biologic membranes. Instead, membrane cholesterol appears to be organized into structural and kinetic domains or pools. Cholesterol-rich and poor domains can even be observed histochemically and physically isolated from epithelial cell surface membranes. The physiologic importance of these domains is 2-fold: (i) Select membrane proteins (receptors, transporters, etc.) are localized in either cholesterol-rich or cholesterol-poor domains. Consequently, the structure and properties of the domains rather than of the bulk lipid may selectively affect the function of proteins residing therein. (ii) Kinetic evidence suggests that cholesterol transport through and between membranes may occur through specific domains or pools. Regulation of the size and properties of such domains may be controlling factors of cholesterol transport or accumulation in cells. Recent technologic advances in the use of fluorescent sterols have allowed examination of cholesterol domain structure in model and biologic membranes. These techniques have been applied to examine the role of high-density lipoprotein, cholesterol lowering drugs, and intracellular lipid transfer proteins in membrane sterol domain structure and sterol movement between membranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-252
Number of pages18
JournalProceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1991
Externally publishedYes

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