Anticancer activity of the cholesterol exporter ABCA1 gene

Cell Rep. 2012 Sep 27;2(3):580-90. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2012.08.011. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


The ABCA1 protein mediates the transfer of cellular cholesterol across the plasma membrane to apolipoprotein A-I. Loss-of-function mutations in the ABCA1 gene induce Tangier disease and familial hypoalphalipoproteinemia, both cardiovascular conditions characterized by abnormally low levels of serum cholesterol, increased cholesterol in macrophages, and subsequent formation of vascular plaque. Increased intracellular cholesterol levels are also frequently found in cancer cells. Here, we demonstrate anticancer activity of ABCA1 efflux function, which is compromised following inhibition of ABCA1 gene expression by oncogenic mutations or cancer-specific ABCA1 loss-of-function mutations. In concert with elevated cholesterol synthesis found in cancer cells, ABCA1 deficiency allows for increased mitochondrial cholesterol, inhibits release of mitochondrial cell death-promoting molecules, and thus facilitates cancer cell survival, suggesting that elevated mitochondrial cholesterol is essential to the cancer phenotype.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / biosynthesis*
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Cholesterol / genetics
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics


  • ABCA1 protein, human
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Cholesterol