Brain does not utilize low density lipoprotein-cholesterol during fetal and neonatal development in the sheep

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Several lines of evidence have suggested that central nervous system development and function depend upon a supply of cholesterol that comes from low density lipoproteins (LDL-C). These studies test this hypothesis directly by measuring in vivo the uptake of LDL-C in nine regions of the central nervous system at five different stages of development in the fetal and neonatal sheep. The concentration of LDL-C in the plasma decreased from 49 mg/dl in the fetus 90 days before birth (-90 days) to only l0 mg/dl at -13 days. By 17 days postnatal this value increased to nearly 60 mg/dl. Throughout the period of development between -90 days (very early fetus) and 17 days (late neonatal animal) the weight of the brain increased 32-fold (from 2.3 to 73.6 g) and the content of cholesterol rose 100-fold (from 8.6 to 876 mg), yet there was no detectable LDL-C uptake in any of nine areas of the central nervous system at any stage of development (clearances of <2 μl/h per g). This was true even in the -90 day fetus prior to closure of the blood brain barrier. In contrast, LDL-C clearance by the adrenal gland increased dramatically (from 91 to 348 μl/h per g) as it also did in the liver (from 36 to 85 μl/h per g) during fetal development. These studies strongly suggest, therefore, that cholesterol carried in LDL plays little or no role in the process of sterol acquisition during brain development or in cholesterol turnover in the mature central nervous system. Changes in circulating LDL-C concentration, therefore, should have no effect on brain function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1953-1961
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1996


  • blood-brain barrier
  • central nervous system
  • cholesterol
  • low density lipoprotein receptor
  • myelination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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