Oxysterols and neurodegenerative diseases

Ingemar Bjorkhem, Karolinska Institute
Angel Cedazo-Minguez
Valerio Leoni
Steve Meaney, Dublin Institute of Technology

Document Type Article

Molecular Aspects of Medicine


In contrast to their parent molecule cholesterol, two of its side-chain oxidized metabolites are able to cross the blood-brain barrier. There is a concentration-driven flux of 24S-hydroxycholesterol (24S-OHC) from the brain into the circulation, which is of major importance for elimination of excess cholesterol from the brain. The opposite flux of 27-hydroxycholesterol (27-OHC) from the circulation into the brain may regulate a number of key enzymes within the brain. In vitro experiments suggest that the balance between the levels of these two molecules may be of importance for the generation of beta-amyloid peptides. In primary cultures of rat hippocampal cells 27-OHC is able to suppress expression of the activity regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc), a protein important in memory consolidation which is reduced in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). In the present work we explore the possibility that the flux of 27-OHC from the circulation into the brain represents the missing link between AD and hypercholesterolemia, and discuss the possibility that modification of this flux may be a therapeutic strategy. Lastly, we discuss the use of oxysterols as diagnostic markers in neurodegenerative disease.