Sterol absorption by the small intestine

Stephen D. Turley, John M. Dietschy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: Cholesterol absorption is a selective process in that plant sterols and other non-cholesterol sterols are absorbed poorly or not at all. Recent research on the sterol efflux pumps adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette transporter G5 and adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette transporter G8 has not only provided an explanation for this selectivity, but also, together with the discovery of a new class of cholesterol absorption inhibitor, has yielded new insights into the mechanisms that potentially regulate the flux of cholesterol across the enterocyte. This review discusses these recent developments and their importance to the regulation of whole body cholesterol homeostasis. Recent findings: Adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette transporters G5/8 regulate plant sterol absorption and also the secretion into bile of cholesterol and non-cholesterol sterols. Loss of adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette transporter G5/8 function results in sitosterolemia. Ezetimibe, a novel, potent and selective inhibitor of cholesterol absorption which is effective in milligram doses, lowers plasma plant sterol concentrations in sitosterolemic subjects, thus suggesting that this drug might be inhibiting the activity of a putative sterol permease in the brush border membrane of the enterocyte that actively facilitates the uptake of cholesterol as well as other non-cholesterol sterols. Summary: Intestinal cholesterol absorption represents a major route for the entry of cholesterol into the body's miscible pools and therefore can potentially impact the plasma LDL-cholesterol concentration. The combined use of agents that inhibit the absorption and synthesis of cholesterol provides a powerful new approach to the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-240
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent opinion in lipidology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003


  • Biliary cholesterol
  • Efflux
  • Enterocyte
  • Sterol permease
  • Uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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