Cholesterol is an essential constituent of membranes in mammalian cells. The plasma membrane and the endocytic recycling compartment (ERC) are both highly enriched in cholesterol. The abundance and distribution of cholesterol among organelles are tightly controlled by a combination of mechanisms involving vesicular and nonvesicular sterol transport processes. Using the fluorescent cholesterol analogue dehydroergosterol, we examined sterol transport between the plasma membrane and the ERC using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching and a novel sterol efflux assay. We found that sterol transport between these organelles in a U2OS cell line has a t1/2 =12-15 min. Approximately 70% of sterol transport is ATP independent and therefore is nonvesicular. Increasing cellular cholesterol levels dramatically increases bidirectional transport rate constants, but decreases in cholesterol levels have only a modest effect. A soluble sterol transport protein, STARD4, accounts for ∼25% of total sterol transport and ∼33% of nonvesicular sterol transport between the plasma membrane and ERC. This study shows that nonvesicular sterol transport mechanisms and STARD4 in particular account for a large fraction of sterol transport between the plasma membrane and the ERC.
© 2017 Iaea et al. This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). Two months after publication it is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0).