Health News: Cholesterol and Your Cells

Cholesterol plays a key role in regulating proteins involved in cell signaling and may be important to many other cell processes, an international team of researchers reported in Nature Communications.

Cholesterol’s role in heart disease has given it a bad reputation. But inside the thin membrane of a cell, the tight regulation of cholesterol at high levels suggests that it plays an important role in cellular processes, says Wonhwa Cho, professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Cho and colleagues had previously found evidence that cholesterol was directly interacting with many proteins found in the interior of the cell. The interaction seemed necessary for the proper functioning of these proteins. “This was quite a surprising finding,” said Cho, because cholesterol resides within the membrane, sandwiched between its inner and outer face. Cell biologists had thought it could only interact with other biomolecules within the membrane.