Cholesterol Metabolism in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2024 Jul 11. doi: 10.1089/ars.2024.0674. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Significance: Cholesterol plays a crucial role in the brain, where it is highly concentrated and tightly regulated to support normal brain functions. It serves as a vital component of cell membranes, ensuring their integrity, and acts as a key regulator of various brain processes. Dysregulation of cholesterol metabolism in the brain has been linked to impaired brain function and the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease. Recent Advances: A significant advancement has been the identification of astrocyte-derived apoliprotein E as a key regulator of de novo cholesterol biosynthesis in neurons, providing insights into how extracellular signals influence neuronal cholesterol levels. In addition, the development of antibody-based therapies, particularly for AD, presents promising opportunities for therapeutic interventions. Critical Issues: Despite significant research, the association between cholesterol and neurodegenerative diseases remains inconclusive. It is crucial to distinguish between plasma cholesterol and brain cholesterol, as these pools are relatively independent. This differentiation should be considered when evaluating statin-based treatment approaches. Furthermore, assessing not only the total cholesterol content in the brain but also its distribution among different types of brain cells is essential. Future Direction: Establishing a causal link between changes in brain/plasma cholesterol levels and the onset of brain dysfunction/neurodegenerative diseases remains a key objective. In addition, conducting cell-specific analyses of cholesterol homeostasis in various types of brain cells under pathological conditions will enhance our understanding of cholesterol metabolism in neurodegenerative diseases. Manipulating cholesterol levels to restore homeostasis may represent a novel approach for alleviating neurological symptoms.

Keywords: ABCA1; Alzheimer’s disease; ApoE; cholesterol metabolism; neurodegenerative diseases.