Regulation of intestinal cholesterol absorption

Annu Rev Physiol. 2007;69:221-48. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.69.031905.160725.


The identification of defective structures in the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters ABCG5 and ABCG8 in patients with sitosterolemia suggests that these two proteins are an apical sterol export pump promoting active efflux of cholesterol and plant sterols from enterocytes back into the intestinal lumen for excretion. The newly identified Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 (NPC1L1) protein is also expressed at the apical membrane of enterocytes and plays a crucial role in the ezetimibe-sensitive cholesterol absorption pathway. These findings indicate that cholesterol absorption is a multistep process that is regulated by multiple genes at the enterocyte level and that the efficiency of cholesterol absorption may be determined by the net effect between influx and efflux of intraluminal cholesterol molecules crossing the brush border membrane of the enterocyte. Combination therapy using cholesterol absorption (NPC1L1) inhibitor (ezetimibe) and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (statins) provides a powerful novel strategy for the prevention and treatment of hypercholesterolemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry, Physical
  • Cholesterol / genetics
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / genetics
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Sterols / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Sterols
  • Cholesterol