Unsaturated fatty acids and phytosterols regulate cholesterol transporter genes in Caco-2 and HepG2 cell lines

Youngki Park, Timothy P. Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Dietary consumption of phytosterols and certain fatty acids has been shown to reduce cholesterol absorption and plasma cholesterol concentrations. However, it has not been fully elucidated whether phytosterols or fatty acids can alter the expression of cholesterol transporters by functioning as signaling molecules. This study tested the hypothesis that various fatty acids and phytosterols commonly found in the food supply can modulate the expression of transporters including Niemann-Pick C1-like 1, low-density lipoprotein receptor, and scavenger receptor class B type I and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase in the intestine and liver. Caco-2 cells were used as models of enterocytes, and HepG2 cells were used as a model of hepatocytes. The cells were treated for 18 hours with 100 μmol/L of a fatty acid, or for 24 hours with 10 μmol/L of 25. α-hydroxycholesterol, or 100 μmol/L of cholesterol, sitosterol, and stigmasterol to measure expression of genes involved in cholesterol transport using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in Caco-2 cells and sterols in HepG2 cells significantly reduced the messenger RNA expression levels of Niemann-Pick C1-like 1, scavenger receptor class B type I, low-density lipoprotein receptor, and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase. Importantly, sitosterol and stigmasterol reduced the messenger RNA levels of genes to a similar extent as cholesterol. The data support the hypothesis that unsaturated fatty acid and phytosterols can act as signaling molecules and alter the expression of genes involved in cholesterol transport and metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-161
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Caco-2 cells
  • Cholesterol transport
  • Fatty acids
  • HepG2 cells
  • NPC1L1
  • Phytosterols
  • SR-BI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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