Recent advances in membrane microdomains: rafts, caveolae, and intracellular cholesterol trafficking. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cellular cholesterol homeostasis is a balance of influx, catabolism and synthesis, and efflux. Unlike vascular lipoprotein cholesterol transport, intracellular cholesterol trafficking is only beginning to be resolved. Exogenous cholesterol and cholesterol ester enter cells via the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor/lysosomal and less so by nonvesicular, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) receptor/caveolar pathways. However, the mechanism(s) whereby cholesterol enters the lysosomal membrane, translocates, and transfers out of the lysosome to the cell interior are unknown. Likewise, the steps whereby cholesterol enters the cytofacial leaflet of the plasma membrane caveolae, rapidly translocates, leaves the exofacial leaflet, and transfers to extracellular HDL are unclear. Increasing evidence obtained with model and isolated cell membranes, transfected cells, genetic mutants, and gene-ablated mice suggests that proteins such as caveolin, sterol carrier protein-2 (SCP-2), Niemann-Pick C1 protein, steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), and other intracellular proteins mediate intracellular cholesterol transfer. While these proteins bind cholesterol and/or interact with cholesterol-rich membrane microdomains (e.g., caveolae, rafts, and annuli), their relative contributions to direct molecular versus vesicular cholesterol transfer remain to be resolved. The formation, regulation, and role of membrane microdomains in regulating cholesterol uptake/efflux and trafficking are unclear. Some cholesterol-binding proteins exert opposing effects on cellular cholesterol uptake/efflux, transfer of cholesterol out of the lysosomal membrane, and/or intracellular cholesterol trafficking to select membranous organelles. Resolving these cholesterol pathways and the role of membrane cholesterol microdomains is essential to our understanding not only of processes that affect cholesterol metabolism, but also of the abnormal regulation that may lead to disease (diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, neutral lipid storage, Niemann-Pick C, congenital lipoid adrenal hyperplasia, etc.).

published proceedings

  • Exp Biol Med (Maywood)

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Schroeder, F., Gallegos, A. M., Atshaves, B. P., Storey, S. M., McIntosh, A. L., Petrescu, A. D., ... Kier, A. B.

citation count

  • 114

complete list of authors

  • Schroeder, F||Gallegos, AM||Atshaves, BP||Storey, SM||McIntosh, AL||Petrescu, AD||Huang, H||Starodub, O||Chao, H||Yang, H||Frolov, A||Kier, AB

publication date

  • November 2001