Cholesterol metabolism and pancreatic beta-cell function

Curr Opin Lipidol. 2009 Jun;20(3):159-64. doi: 10.1097/MOL.0b013e32832ac180.


Purpose of review: It has recently been recognized that cholesterol homeostasis is fundamentally important for appropriate insulin secretory function of beta-cells in the pancreas. This review summarizes recent advances in understanding the relationship between beta-cell cholesterol metabolism and beta-cell function.

Recent findings: The accumulation of cholesterol in beta-cells causes perturbations in glucose metabolism, reduces insulin secretion and can be associated with a diabetic phenotype. Cholesterol is also a key determinant of beta-cell membrane organization and cell survival. The ATP-binding cassette transporter A1, which effluxes cholesterol to lipid-free/lipid-poor apolipoprotein A-I, the principal apolipoprotein in HDLs, is crucial for maintaining beta-cell cholesterol homeostasis and function. There is also evidence suggesting that different lipoprotein classes have varying effects on beta-cell function and survival.

Summary: Cholesterol is important for beta-cell function and survival. It can cause beta-cell loss if allowed to accumulate in the cells in an unregulated manner. The maintenance of beta-cell cholesterol homeostasis, therefore, is important for preventing beta-cell dysfunction, the onset of insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / pathology
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Insulin
  • Lipoproteins
  • Cholesterol