Use of mutant fibroblasts in the analysis of the regulation of cholesterol metabolism in human cells

M. S. Brown, P. G. Brannan, H. A. Bohmfalk, G. Y. Brunschede, S. E. Dana, J. Helgeson, J. L. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Analysis of mutant human fibroblasts deficient in a cell surface receptor for low density lipoproteins (LDL) has led to the delineation of an important, hitherto unrecognized, regulatory process for cholesterol metabolism. In normal cells, binding of LDL to this receptor regulates cholesterol metabolism by two mechanisms: (a) suppression of cholesterol synthesis and (b) facilitation of the rate of proteolytic degradation of the lipoprotein. In cells from homozygotes with the autosomal dominant disorder Familial Hypercholesterolemia, a nearly total reduction in LDL receptors results in two secondary abnormalities: (a) overproduction of cholesterol due to an inability of LDL to suppress the activity of 3‐hydroxy‐3‐methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase, the rate‐controlling enzyme in cholesterol biosynthesis, and (b) impairment in the rate of proteolytic degradation of LDL. Cells from heterozygotes possess about 50 per cent of the normal number of LDL receptors; this leads to a concentrationdependent defect in regulation, so that attainment of rates of cholesterol synthesis and LDL degradation equal to that in normal cells requires a two to three‐fold higher concentration of extracellular LDL in the heterozygote. The identification of this genetic regulatory defect in fibroblasts of heterozygotes with Familial Hypercholesterolemia makes available an in vitro system for studying the molecular mechanism by which a dominant mutation affects gene expression in mammalian cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-436
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number1 S
StatePublished - Apr 1975

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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