Lysosomal membrane cholesterol dynamics. Academic Article uri icon


  • Although the majority of exogenous cholesterol and cholesterol ester enters the cell by LDL-receptor-mediated endocytosis and the lysosomal pathway, the assumption that cholesterol transfers out of the lysosome by rapid (minutes), spontaneous diffusion has heretofore not been tested. As shown herein, lysosomal membranes were unique among known organellar membranes in terms of cholesterol content, cholesterol dynamics, and response to cholesterol-mobilizing proteins. First, the lysosomal membrane cholesterol:phospholipid molar ratio, 0.38, was intermediate between those of the plasma membrane and other organellar membranes. Second, a fluorescence sterol exchange assay showed that the initial rate of spontaneous sterol transfer out of lysosomes and purified lysosomal membranes was extremely slow, t(1/2) >4 days. This was >100-fold longer than that reported in intact cells (2 min) and 40-60-fold longer than from any other known intracellular membrane. Third, when probed with several cholesterol-binding proteins, the initial rate of sterol transfer was maximally increased nearly 80-fold and the organization of cholesterol in the lysosomal membrane was rapidly altered. Nearly half of the essentially nonexchangeable sterol in the lysosomal membrane was converted to rapidly (t(1/2) = 6 min; fraction = 0.06) and slowly (t(1/2) = 154 min; fraction = 0.36) exchangeable sterol domains/pools. In summary, the data revealed that spontaneous cholesterol transfer out of the lysosome and lysosomal membrane was extremely slow, inconsistent with rapid spontaneous diffusion across the lysosomal membrane. In contrast, the very slow spontaneous transfer of sterol out of the lysosome and lysosomal membrane was consistent with cholesterol leaving the lysosome earlier in the endocytic process and/or with cholesterol transfer out of the lysosome being mediated by additional process(es) extrinsic to the lysosome and lysosomal membrane.

published proceedings

  • Biochemistry

author list (cited authors)

  • Schoer, J. K., Gallegos, A. M., McIntosh, A. L., Starodub, O., Kier, A. B., Billheimer, J. T., & Schroeder, F.

citation count

  • 46

complete list of authors

  • Schoer, JK||Gallegos, AM||McIntosh, AL||Starodub, O||Kier, AB||Billheimer, JT||Schroeder, F

publication date

  • July 2000