Intracellular transport of cholesterol in type C Niemann-Pick fibroblasts.

J.Peter Slotte, Gun Hedström, Edwin L. Bierman

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    The purpose of this study was to determine the capacity of Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) fibroblasts to transport cholesterol from the cell surface to intracellular membranes. This is relevant in light of the observations that NPC cells display a sluggish metabolism of LDL-derived cholesterol, a phenomenon which could be explained by a defective intracellular transport of cholesterol. Treatment of NPC cells for 4 h with 0.1 mg/ml of LDL failed to increase the incorporation of [14C]oleic acid into cholesterol [14C]oleate, an observation consistent with previous reports on this cell type (Pentchev et al. (1985) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 82, 8247). Normal fibroblasts, however, displayed the classical upregulation (6-fold over control) of the endogenous esterification reaction in response to LDL exposure. Incubation of normal or NPC fibroblasts with sphingomyelinase (100 mU/ml; Staphylococcus aureus) led to a rapid and marked increase (9- and 10-fold for normal and NPC fibroblasts, respectively, after 4 h) in the esterification of plasma-membrane-derived [3H]cholesterol suggesting that sphingomyelin degradation forced a net transfer of cholesterol from the cell surface to the endoplasmic reticulum. The similar response in normal and mutant fibroblasts to the degradation of sphingomyelin suggests that plasma membrane cholesterol can be transported into the substrate pool of ACAT to about the same extent in these two cell types. Degradation of cell sphingomyelin in NPC fibroblasts also resulted in the movement of 20-25% of the cellular cholesterol from a cholesterol oxidase susceptible pool into oxidase-resistant pools, implying that a substantial amount of plasma membrane cholesterol was internalized after sphingomyelin degradation. This cholesterol internalization was not accompanied by an increased rate of membrane internalization, as measured by [3H]sucrose uptake. Although NPC cells showed a relative accumulation of unesterified cholesterol and a sluggish esterification of LDL-derived cholesterol when exposed to LDL, these cells responded like normal fibroblasts with regard to their capacity to transport cholesterol from the cell surface into intracellular sites in response to sphingomyelin degradation. It therefore appears that NPC cells, in contrast to the impaired intracellular movement of lipoprotein-derived cholesterol, do not display a general impairment of cholesterol transport between the cell surface and the intracellular regulatory pool of cholesterol.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)303–9
    JournalBBA - Biochimica et Biophysica Acta
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1989
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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