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.
Five Disneyland workers have been diagnosed with illness
The first batch of a vaccine against Ebola is on its way to Liberia and trials are expected to start soon.
A drug that protected mice three days after exposure to radiation could buy more time for survivors of a nuclear disaster
Unexpectedly high levels of the cancer-causing chemical were found in an analysis of the vapor from e-cigarettes, researchers say.
When mosquitoes suck blood from people with malaria, they are more likely to develop an infection if their victim is taking antibiotics
Efforts to prevent suicide, such as those championed by Nick Clegg, must take into account some apparently paradoxical differences between men and women
Scientists are studying how hemp might be used in the electronic, medical and manufacturing industries. Because the plant's been illegal for decades, it's been difficult to do research on its uses.
They leave doctors puzzled in their wake as they migrate and settle to feed on the body they're invading; a classic parasite, but this one can get into your head.
The first world war helped spread TB round the world, but it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that enabled the multidrug-resistant form to take off
A recent survey suggests that 71% of people think that the world is going to the dogs. Are things actually that bad, or is it a psychological trick of the mind?