BODIPY-cholesterol: a new tool to visualize sterol trafficking in living cells and organisms

Traffic. 2008 Nov;9(11):1839-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2008.00801.x. Epub 2008 Jul 19.


Analysis of sterol distribution and transport in living cells has been hampered by the lack of bright, photostable fluorescent sterol derivatives that closely resemble cholesterol. In this study, we employed atomistic simulations and experiments to characterize a cholesterol compound with fluorescent boron dipyrromethene difluoride linked to sterol carbon-24 (BODIPY-cholesterol). This probe packed in the membrane and behaved similarly to cholesterol both in normal and in cholesterol-storage disease cells and with trace amounts allowed the visualization of sterol movement in living systems. Upon injection into the yolk sac, BODIPY-cholesterol did not disturb zebrafish development and was targeted to sterol-enriched brain regions in live fish. We conclude that this new probe closely mimics the membrane partitioning and trafficking of cholesterol and, because of its excellent fluorescent properties, enables the direct monitoring of sterol movement by time-lapse imaging using trace amounts of the probe. This is, to our knowledge, the first cholesterol probe that fulfills these prerequisites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Boron Compounds / chemistry*
  • CHO Cells
  • Cholesterol / chemistry*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Sterols / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish


  • 4,4-difluoro-4-bora-3a,4a-diaza-s-indacene
  • Boron Compounds
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Sterols
  • Cholesterol