The Journal Of Biological Chemistry
Cellular cholesterol homeostasis involves sterol sensing at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and sterol export from the plasma membrane (PM). Sterol sensing at the ER requires efficient sterol delivery from the PM; however, the macromolecules that facilitate retrograde sterol transport at the PM have not been identified. ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) mediates cholesterol and phospholipid export to apolipoprotein A-I for the assembly of high density lipoprotein (HDL). Mutations in ABCA1 cause Tangier disease, a familial HDL deficiency. Several lines of clinical and experimental evidence suggest a second function of ABCA1 in cellular cholesterol homeostasis in addition to mediating cholesterol efflux. Here, we report the unexpected finding that ABCA1 also plays a key role in facilitating retrograde sterol transport from the PM to the ER for sterol sensing. Deficiency in ABCA1 delays sterol esterification at the ER and activates the SREBP-2 cleavage pathway. The intrinsic ATPase activity in ABCA1 is required to facilitate retrograde sterol transport. ABCA1 deficiency causes alternation of PM composition and hampers a clathrin-independent endocytic activity that is required for ER sterol sensing. Our finding identifies ABCA1 as a key macromolecule facilitating bidirectional sterol movement at the PM and shows that ABCA1 controls retrograde sterol transport by modulating a certain clathrin-independent endocytic process.