Cholesterol plays a key role in regulating proteins involved in cell signaling and may be important to many other cell processes, an international team of researchers has found.
The results of their study are reported in the journal Nature Communications.
Cholesterol's role in heart disease has given it a bad reputation. But inside the thin membrane of a cell, the tight regulation of cholesterol at high levels (30 to 40 percent) suggests that it plays an important role in cellular processes, says Wonhwa Cho, professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and principal investigator on the study.
Cho and colleagues had previously found evidence that cholesterol was directly interacting with many proteins found in the interior of the cell. The interaction seemed necessary for the proper functioning of these proteins.
"This was quite a surprising finding," said Cho, because cholesterol resides within the membrane, sandwiched between its inner and outer face. Cell biologists had thought it could only interact with other biomolecules within the membrane.
In the new study, Cho and his colleagues showed how cholesterol interacts with a scaffolding protein, one of a class of proteins that plays an important role in cell signaling. The researchers showed that cholesterol binds to a region on the protein molecule where one of its signaling partners also binds -- and that disrupting cholesterol binding to the protein makes it unable to activate its partner.
The researchers describe in detail how the protein hooks onto and reaches inside the membrane to find and bind cholesterol.
Cho believes that this strategy for interacting with cholesterol may be used by many interior cellular proteins and offers an insight into what is known about the importance of cholesterol to well-functioning cells.
Much of the existing data on the cholesterol-related regulation of cellular processes had been difficult to interpret, he said.
"This is a major finding that will help people understand how cholesterol may regulate other cellular processes," Cho said.
University of Illinois at Chicago: http://www.uic.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
People who suffer from mental health issues also suffer from its stigma. Portraying mental illness as a good thing helps no one
The inventor of a breakthrough DNA test for Down syndrome says the technology can be used to screen people for cancer.The Hong Kong scientist who invented a simple blood test to show pregnant women if their babies have Down syndrome is now testing a similar technology for cancer.
Dr Jeremy Farrar of Wellcome Trust says international community is belatedly taking actions necessary to stem tide of disease
Miniature stomachs gastric organoids will help in study of ulcers and could be used in future to repair patients stomachs
The story of the vaccines development is just one part of a rich and intertwined history of scientific discovery and controversy
A highly sensitive blood test for Ebola exists, so why isn't it being used to test all returning health workers from West Africa? Because the virus isn't in the blood in the first stages of infection.
Drinking beverages enriched with compounds found in cocoa beans improved older adults' performances on a memory test – but there's a catch
A 700-year-old caribou dropping from northern Canada holds surprisingly well-preserved viruses. There's no evidence the viruses are dangerous, but they are scientifically interesting.
The New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial against quarantining people who have worked with Ebola patients in Africa. Renee Montagne speaks with Dr. Lindsey Baden, one of the authors.
Surgeons in Australia say they have performed the first heart transplant using a "dead heart".