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Shi C, Wu F, Xu J. Incorporation of β-sitosterol into mitochondrial membrane enhances mitochondrial function by promoting inner mitochondrial membrane fluidity. J Bioenerg Biomembr. 2013 Jun;45(3):301-5.
Recent findings suggest that mitochondrial membrane fluidity could influence mitochondrial energy metabolism. β-sitosterol (BS) is a common plant sterol that is prevalent in plant oils, nuts, cereals and plant food products. Its chemical structure is very similar to that of cholesterol. As a cholesterol analog, BS is highly lipid soluble and largely resides in the membranes of cells or organelles where it may have an influence on the membrane fluidity. The present study reports that, with the cholesterol chelator 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HPβCD) as its carrier, BS is able to increase the fluidity of the inner mitochondrial membrane (IMM) without affecting the fluidity of the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM), and consequently to increase the mitochondrial membrane potential (∆Ψm) and mitochondrial ATP content. It has been previously proposed that a therapeutical boost in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels in mitochondria may be beneficial for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Given that dietary administration of plant sterols could increase brain BS concentrations, these results may provide a better understanding of the beneficial effects of plant sterol-enriched nutrients on neurodegenerative diseases such as AD.