Bisphenol A Promotes Cholesterol Absorption in Caco-2 Cells by Up-Regulation of NPC1L1 Expression

Lipids Health Dis. 2017 Jan 6;16(1):2. doi: 10.1186/s12944-016-0395-0.


Background: Bisphenol A (BPA), an commonly exposed environmental chemicals in humans, has been shown to have a hypercholesterolemic effect with molecular mechanism not clear. Since intestinal cholesterol absorption plays a major role in maintaining total body cholesterol homeostasis, the present study is to investigate whether BPA affects cholesterol absorption in the intestinal Caco-2 cells.

Methods: The Caco-2 cells were pretreated with BPA at different concentrations for 24 h and then incubated with radioactive micellar cholesterol for 2 h. The absorption of radioactive cholesterol was quantified by liquid scintillation. The expression of Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 (NPC1L1) and sterol regulatory element binding protein-2 (SREBP-2) was analyzed by Western blot and qPCR.

Results: We found that confluent Caco-2 cells expressed NPC1L1, and the absorption of cholesterol in the cells was inhibited by ezetimibe, a specific inhibitor of NPC1L1. We then pretreated the cells with 0.1-10 nM BPA for 24 h and found that BPA at 1 and 10 nM doses promoted cholesterol absorption. In addition, we found that the BPA-induced promotion of cholesterol absorption was associated with significant increase in the levels of NPC1L1 protein and NPC1L1 mRNA. Moreover, the stimulatory effects of BPA on cholesterol absorption and NPC1L1 expression could be prevented by blockade of the SREBP-2 pathway.

Conclusions: This study provides the first evidence that BPA promotes cholesterol absorption in the intestinal cells and the stimulatory effect of BPA is mediated, at least in part, by SREBP-2-NPC1L1 signaling pathway.

Keywords: Bisphenol A; Caco-2 cells; Cholesterol absorption; Hypercholesterolemia; Niemann-Pick C1-like 1; Sterol regulatory element binding protein-2.

MeSH terms

  • Benzhydryl Compounds / toxicity*
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / chemically induced
  • Hypercholesterolemia / genetics
  • Hypercholesterolemia / metabolism
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Phenols / toxicity*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Up-Regulation


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Membrane Proteins
  • NPC1L1 protein, human
  • Phenols
  • Cholesterol
  • bisphenol A