Dietary plant sterols accumulate in the brain

P.J. Jansen*, D. Lutjohann, K. Abildayeva, T. Vanmierlo, T. Plosch, J. Plat, K. von Bergmann, A.K. Groen, F.C.S. Ramaekers, F. Kuipers, M. Mulder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Dietary plant sterols and cholesterol have a comparable chemical structure. It is generally assumed that cholesterol and plant sterols do not cross the blood-brain barrier, but quantitative data are lacking. Here, we report that mice deficient for ATP-binding cassette transporter G5 (Abcg5) or Abcg8, with strongly elevated serum plant sterol levels, display dramatically increased (7- to 16-fold) plant sterol levels in the brain. Apolipoprotein E (ApoE)-deficient mice also displayed elevated serum plant sterol levels, which was however not associated with significant changes in brain plant sterol levels. Abcg5- and Abeg8-deficient mice were found to carry circulating plant sterols predominantly in high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-particles, whereas ApoE-deficient mice accommodated most of their serum plant sterols in very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)-particles. This suggests an important role for HDL and/or ApoE in the transfer of plant sterols into the brain. Moreover, sitosterol upregulated apoE mRNA and protein levels in astrocytoma, but not in neuroblastoma cells, to a higher extend than cholesterol. In conclusion, dietary plant sterols pass the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in the brain, where they may exert brain cell type-specific effects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-53
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta-Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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