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.
UN assistant secretary general says deadly outbreak, which has been blamed on UN troops, demands decisive action
Caffeine is the drug many of us can't live without – but do you have any idea how much is in your daily hit?
Warmer temperatures are causing malaria to spread in the African and South American highlands, traditionally havens from the disease, scientists say.
How best to achieve success is a highly contentious issue, but politicians should remember that a good start in life is key
A second child seems to have been cleared of the AIDS virus, thanks to heavy-duty drugs started just hours after birth. This spring researchers plan to test that approach in 60 more newborns.
A report finds that azodicarbonamide wasn't just in Subway's bread: It's in hundreds of foods. While it has been linked to asthma in factory workers, the additive poses no known risk to consumers.
Army initiative to research suicides in the US military released its first three studiesAmanda Holpuch
The luxury fibre can be fashioned into screws and plates that could hold broken bones together while they heal, before biodegrading when no longer needed
Middle-aged people on a high-protein diet are at greater risk of dying from cancer, claims a study, but critics say firm evidence is lacking
In an exclusive interview with National Geographic, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, shares her concerns about the consequences of legalizing the drug.