Intracellular sterol transport and distribution
Sterols are important components of many biological membranes, and changes in sterol levels can have dramatic effects on membrane properties. Sterols are transported rapidly between cellular organelles by vesicular and nonvesicular processes. Recent studies have identified transmembrane proteins that facilitate the removal of sterols from membranes as well as soluble cytoplasmic proteins that play a role in their movement through the cytoplasm. The mechanisms by which these proteins work are generally not well understood. Cells maintain large differences in the sterol:phospholipid ratio in different organelles. Recent theoretical and experimental studies indicate ways in which the lipid environment can alter the chemical potential of sterols, which may help to explain aspects of their transport kinetics and distribution.