Unesterified cholesterol accumulation in the late endosomal/lysosomal (LE/LY) compartment is the cellular hallmark of Niemann-Pick C (NPC) disease, caused by defects in the genes encoding NPC1 or NPC2. We previously reported the dramatic stimulation of NPC2 cholesterol transport rates to and from model membranes by the LE/LY phospholipid lysobisphosphatidic acid (LBPA). It had been previously shown that enrichment of NPC1-deficient cells with LBPA results in cholesterol clearance. Here we demonstrate that LBPA enrichment in human NPC2-deficient cells, either directly or via its biosynthetic precursor phosphtidylglycerol (PG), is entirely ineffective, indicating an obligate functional interaction between NPC2 and LBPA in cholesterol trafficking. We further demonstrate that NPC2 interacts directly with LBPA and identify the NPC2 hydrophobic knob domain as the site of interaction. Together these studies reveal a heretofore unknown step of intracellular cholesterol trafficking which is critically dependent upon the interaction of LBPA with functional NPC2 protein.
Judith Storch, Ph.D.
Professor, Nutritional Sciences, Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ 08901