Cholesterol plays a key role in humans and many other organisms, by serving as a structural element of membranes and by providing a precursor for steroid hormones. Since elevated LDL-associated serum cholesterol is linked to greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease in humans, understanding the molecular basis for cholesterol homeostasis is of major importance. The SREBP-2 pathway controls cholesterol synthesis and uptake by cells. Core components of the cholesterol sensing machinery in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) that regulate the activation of SREBP-2 have been characterized in detail. In contrast, little is known about certain other aspects of their regulation, including whether these components are regulated by protein/lipid nanodomains in the ER. Erlin-1 and erlin-2 are closely related ER proteins that fractionate with cholesterol-rich, detergent-resistant membranes. Erlins previously have been linked to ER-associated degradation of the IP3 receptor. Based on recent biochemical and functional results linking erlins to the SREBP-2 pathway, this project will investigate the hypothesis that erlins organize cholesterol-rich, membrane raft-like nanodomains in the ER that are important for regulation of cholesterol biosynthesis. The work will generate erlin-2 mutants that are predicted to be deficient in organizing these nanodomains. These mutants will be analyzed for their ability to partition into a detergent-resistant raft fraction, and to complement the loss of sterol-sensitive regulation of SREBP-2 that is induced by the silencing of endogenous erlins. Additional work will analyze the ability of recombinant wild-type erlin-2 and erlin-2 mutants deficient in raft formation to directly bind cholesterol and ceramide, and will investigate the components of the SREBP-2 machinery that are nearest neighbors of erlins by crosslinking and mass spectrometry. Together, these studies are expected to delineate major features of erlins that underlie their role in organizing ER rafts and in regulating the SREBP-2 pathway. Thus, the work should shed light on a previously unrecognized mechanism involving ER nanodomains that may be crucial for regulation of cholesterol biosynthesis.

Public Health Relevance

Although cholesterol plays a key role in the structure and functions of cells, elevated LDL- associated serum cholesterol is linked to greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease in humans. This project will analyze new cellular mechanisms implicated in regulating cell cholesterol. This work is relevant for understanding and controlling cholesterol-related cardiovascular diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Membrane Biology and Protein Processing (MBPP)
Program Officer
Liu, Lijuan
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Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla
United States
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Huber, Michael D; Vesely, Paul W; Datta, Kaustuv et al. (2013) Erlins restrict SREBP activation in the ER and regulate cellular cholesterol homeostasis. J Cell Biol 203:427-36
Kerkow, Donald E; Carmel, Andrew B; Menichelli, Elena et al. (2012) The structure of the NXF2/NXT1 heterodimeric complex reveals the combined specificity and versatility of the NTF2-like fold. J Mol Biol 415:649-65