Origin of cholesterol in myelin

Neurochem Res. 1996 Apr;21(4):463-70. doi: 10.1007/BF02527711.


We review some of the older literature concerning metabolic turnover of cholesterol in the nervous system. The overall picture is that incorporation of radioactive precursors into brain cholesterol is roughly proportional to the rate of myelination and that, once incorporated, radioactive cholesterol is relatively stable metabolically. We outline a strategy for demonstrating the source (local synthesis or uptake from circulation) of cholesterol in brain. The experimental design involves determining the rate of accumulation of cholesterol; this is calculated as the increasing amounts of sterol in brain at successive time intervals during development. The rate of appearance of newly synthesized cholesterol is determined from incorporation of radioactivity from 3H20 (injected i.p. several hours prior to sacrifice) into cholesterol. The radioactivity associated with the sterol fractions and the specific activity of body water determined from the serum can be used to calculate the absolute amount of sterol newly synthesized during the time when 3H20 was present. The results obtained demonstrated that all of the bulk cholesterol accumulating in brain can be accounted for by newly synthesized cholesterol. None of the radioactive cholesterol came from the circulation, since cholesterol feeding suppressed cholesterol biosynthesis in the liver and specific radioactivity of circulating cholesterol was negligible. Thus, almost all cholesterol accumulating in brain during development is locally synthesized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Water
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Research Design
  • Tritium


  • Tritium
  • Cholesterol