Rationale: Signal initiation by the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) receptor scavenger receptor class B, type I (SR-BI), which is important to actions of HDL on endothelium and other processes, requires cholesterol efflux and the C-terminal transmembrane domain. The C-terminal transmembrane domain uniquely interacts with plasma membrane (PM) cholesterol.
Objective: The molecular basis and functional significance of SR-BI interaction with PM cholesterol are unknown. We tested the hypotheses that the interaction is required for SR-BI signaling, and that it enables SR-BI to serve as a PM cholesterol sensor.
Methods and results: In studies performed in COS-M6 cells, mutation of a highly conserved C-terminal transmembrane domain glutamine to alanine (SR-BI-Q445A) decreased PM cholesterol interaction with the receptor by 71% without altering HDL binding or cholesterol uptake or efflux, and it yielded a receptor incapable of HDL-induced signaling. Signaling prompted by cholesterol efflux to methyl-β-cyclodextrin also was prevented, indicating that PM cholesterol interaction with the receptor enables it to serve as a PM cholesterol sensor. Using SR-BI-Q445A, we further demonstrated that PM cholesterol sensing by SR-BI does not influence SR-BI-mediated reverse cholesterol transport to the liver in mice. However, the PM cholesterol sensing does underlie apolipoprotein B intracellular trafficking in response to postprandial micelles or methyl-β-cyclodextrin in cultured enterocytes, and it is required for HDL activation of endothelial NO synthase and migration in cultured endothelial cells and HDL-induced angiogenesis in vivo.
Conclusions: Through interaction with PM cholesterol, SR-BI serves as a PM cholesterol sensor, and the resulting intracellular signaling governs processes in both enterocytes and endothelial cells.