Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Neurochemistry and Molecular Neurobiology

pp 151-170


Cholesterol—A Janus-Faced Molecule in the Central Nervous System

  • W. G. Wood
  • , U. Igbavboa
  • , G. P. Eckert
  • , W. E Müller


Understanding the role of cholesterol in normal brain function and its involvement in specific neurodegenerative diseases has attracted considerable attention. One general observation is that there are notable differences in the brain cholesterol properties and dynamics as compared with cholesterol outside of the brain. In addition, much of what is known of brain cholesterol is based on studies focusing on the total or bulk amount of cholesterol; however, it is becoming increasingly recognized that cholesterol domains may provide greater insight into the cellular function of cholesterol. This chapter, therefore, examines the role of cholesterol in brain, compares the properties and dynamics of brain and peripheral cholesterol, and describes cholesterol domains and the contribution of cholesterol to brain pathophysiology, with an emphasis on Alzheimer's disease (AD). Attention is also directed at the participation of other compounds in the brain cholesterol biosynthetic pathway, namely isoprenoids and the cholesterol metabolites, oxysterols.