Pathways of intracellular cholesterol trafficking are poorly understood at the molecular level. Mutations in Niemann-Pick C (NPC) proteins, NPC1 and NPC2, however, have led to insights into the mechanism by which endocytosed cholesterol is exported from late endosomes/lysosomes (LE/L). Mutations in NPC1, a multi-spanning membrane protein of LE/L, or mutations in NPC2, a soluble luminal protein of LE/L, cause the neurodegenerative disorder NPC disease. This review focuses on data supporting a model in which movement of cholesterol out of LE/L is mediated by the sequential action of the two NPC proteins. We also discuss potential therapies for NPC disease, including evidence that treatment of NPC-deficient mice with the cholesterol-binding compound, cyclodextrin, markedly attenuates neurodegeneration, and increases life-span, of NPC1-deficient mice.
Copyright 2010 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.