Effect of truncated forms of the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein on intramitochondrial cholesterol transfer

Xingjia Wang, Zhiming Liu, Sarah Eimerl, Rina Timberg, Aryeh M. Weiss, Joseph Orly, Douglas M. Stocco

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120 Scopus citations


It has been proposed that the steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein controls hormone-stimulated steroid production by mediating cholesterol transfer to the mitochondrial inner membrane. This study was conducted to determine the effect of wild-type StAR and several modified forms of StAR on intramitochondrial cholesterol transfer. Forty-seven N- terminal or 28 C-terminal amine acids of the StAR protein were removed, and COS-1 cells were transfected with pCMV vector only, wild-type StAR, N-47, or the C-28 constructs. Lysates from the transfected COS-1 cells were then incubated with mitochondria from MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells that were preloaded with [3H]cholesterol. After incubation, mitochondria were collected and fractionated on sucrose gradients into outer membranes, inner membranes, and membrane contact sites, and [3H]cholesterol content was determined in each membrane fraction. Incubation of MA-10 mitochondria with wild-type StAR containing cell lysate resulted in a significant 34.9% increase in [3H]cholesterol content in contact sites and a significant 32.8% increase in inner mitochondrial membranes. Incubations with cell lysate containing N-47 StAR protein also resulted in a 16.4% increase in [3H]cholesterol in contact sites and a significant 26.1% increase in the inner membrane fraction. In contrast, incubation with the C-28 StAR protein had no effect on cholesterol transfer. The cholesterol-transferring activity of the N-47 truncation, in contrast to that of the C-28 mutant, was corroborated when COS-1 cells were cotransfected with F2 vector (containing cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage enzyme, ferridoxin, and ferridoxin reductase) and either pCMV empty vector or the complementary DNAs of wild- type StAR, N-47 StAR, or C-28 StAR. Pregnenolone production was significantly increased in both wild-type and N-47-transfected cells, whereas that in C- 28-transfected cells was similar to the control value. Finally, immunolocalization studies with confocal image and electron microscopy were performed to determine the cellular location of StAR and its truncated forms in transfected COS-1 cells. The results showed that wild-type and most of the C-28 StAR protein were imported into the mitochondria, whereas most of N-47 protein remained in the cytosol. These studies demonstrate a direct effect of StAR protein on cholesterol transfer to the inner mitochondrial membrane, that StAR need not enter the mitochondria to produce this transfer, and the importance of the C-terminus of StAR in this process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3903-3912
Number of pages10
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


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