Bisphenol A induces cholesterol biosynthesis in HepG2 cells via SREBP-2/HMGCR signaling pathway

J Toxicol Sci. 2019;44(7):481-491. doi: 10.2131/jts.44.481.


Bisphenol A (BPA), an environmental chemical to which humans are commonly exposed, has been shown to increase cholesterol level but the molecular mechanism is not clear. Since cholesterol biosynthesis plays an important role in elevating cholesterol level, the aim of the present study is to explore the effects of BPA on cholesterol biosynthesis in HepG2 cells and its possible mechanisms. HepG2 cells were treated with different concentrations of BPA for 24 hr, the total cholesterol level and the activity of 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR) were measured using commercial enzymatic assay kits, and the mRNA and protein expression levels of sterol regulatory element binding protein-2(SREBP-2) and HMGCR were analyzed by qPCR, Western blotting and immunofluorescence, respectively. After treating HepG2 cells with different concentrations (0.1 nM~10 µM) of BPA for 24 hr, we found that BPA at the environmentally relevant concentrations of 1 nM and 10 nM significantly increased the total cholesterol content, the activity and expression of HMGCR in HepG2 cells, but at 100 nM, 1 µM and 10 µM doses, BPA had no stimulatory effect on cholesterol biosynthesis. The whole dose-response relationship follows non-monotonic dose responses, such as an inverted U-shape. Using human SREBP-2 small interfering RNA, we further discovered that the stimulatory effects of BPA on cholesterol biosynthesis and HMGCR expression could be prevented by blockade of the SREBP-2 pathway. This study provides important implications for understanding the potential lipotoxicity of BPA exposure, and it also indicates that low-dose BPA induces hepatic cholesterol biosynthesis through upregulating the SREBP-2/HMGCR signaling pathway.

Keywords: 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase; Bisphenol A; Cholesterol biosynthesis; HepG2 cells; Sterol regulatory element binding protein-2.

MeSH terms

  • Benzhydryl Compounds / adverse effects*
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases / metabolism*
  • Phenols / adverse effects*
  • Plasticizers / adverse effects*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 2 / metabolism*
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Phenols
  • Plasticizers
  • SREBF2 protein, human
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 2
  • Cholesterol
  • HMGCR protein, human
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases
  • bisphenol A