Spontaneous and Protein-mediated Sterol Transfer between Intracellular Membranes* Academic Article uri icon


  • Relatively little is known regarding intracellular cholesterol trafficking pathways. To resolve some of these potential pathways, spontaneous and protein-mediated sterol transfer was examined between different donor-acceptor membrane pairs in vitro using L-cell fibroblast plasma membrane (PM) and microsomal (MICRO) and mitochondrial (MITO) membranes. Several new exciting insights were provided. First, the initial rate of spontaneous molecular sterol transfer was more dependent on the type of acceptor than donor membrane, i.e. spontaneous intracellular sterol trafficking was vectorial. Therefore, the rate of sterol desorption from the donor membrane was not necessarily the rate-limiting step in molecular sterol transfer. Second, the rate of molecular sterol transfer was not obligatorily correlated with the direction of the cholesterol gradient. For example, although PM had a 3.2-fold higher cholesterol/phospholipid ratio than MITO, spontaneous sterol transfer was 4-5-fold faster up (MITO to PM) rather than down (PM to MITO) the concentration gradient. Third, sterol carrier protein-2 differentially stimulated the initial rate of sterol transfer for all donor-acceptor combinations, being most effective with PM donors: PM-MICRO, 27-fold; and PM-MITO, 12-fold. Sterol carrier protein-2 was less effective in enhancing sterol transfer in the reverse direction, i.e. MICRO-PM and MITO-PM (5- and 4-fold, respectively). Fourth, liver fatty acid-binding protein was limited in stimulating the initial rate of sterol transfer from PM to PM (1.5-fold), from PM to MITO (3-fold), and from MICRO to MITO (3-fold). In summary, these observations present important insights into potential sterol trafficking pathways between the major membrane components of the cell.

author list (cited authors)

  • Frolov, A., Woodford, J. K., Murphy, E. J., Billheimer, J. T., & Schroeder, F.

citation count

  • 71

complete list of authors

  • Frolov, A||Woodford, JK||Murphy, EJ||Billheimer, JT||Schroeder, F

publication date

  • July 1996