, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 599-611

Intracellular sterol trafficking

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Sterols are acquired by cells either biosynthetically by the interaction of cytoplasmic and endoplasmic reticulum elements, or by endocytosis. The subcellular distribution of sterols, however, argues that sterols are trafficked quickly from sites of acquisition to target membranes, particularly the plasma membrane. The mechanisms mediating this movement might include aqueous diffusion, vesicles of either a unique pathway or of the protein secretory pathway, or carrier proteins. These mechanisms are discussed and the limited data concerning each are presented. Finally, a theory is proposed which describes how sterols and other membrane reinforcing molecules might have driven the evolution of intracellular membranes, thus establishing the dynamic membrane system of modern eukaryotes.