Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC) is characterized by substantial intracellular accumulation of unesterified cholesterol. The accumulation of unesterified cholesterol in NPC fibroblasts cultured with low density lipoprotein (LDL) appears to result from the inability of LDL to stimulate cholesterol esterification in addition to impaired LDL-mediated downregulation of LDL receptor activity and cellular cholesterol synthesis. Although a defect in cholesterol transport in NPC cells has been inferred from previous studies, no experiments have been reported that measure the intracellular movement of LDL-cholesterol specifically. We have used four approaches to assess intracellular cholesterol transport in normal and NPC cells and have determined the following: (a) mevinolin-inhibited NPC cells are defective in using LDL-cholesterol for growth. However, exogenously added mevalonate restores cell growth equally in normal and NPC cells; (b) the transport of LDL-derived [3H]cholesterol to the plasma membrane is slower in NPC cells, while the rate of appearance of [3H]acetate-derived, endogenously synthesized [3H]cholesterol at the plasma membrane is the same for normal and NPC cells; (c) in NPC cells, LDL-derived [3H]cholesterol accumulates in lysosomes to higher levels than normal, resulting in defective movement to other cell membranes; and (d) incubation of cells with LDL causes an increase in cholesterol content of NPC lysosomes that is threefold greater than that observed in normal lysosomes. Our results indicate that a cholesterol transport defect exists in NPC that is specific for LDL-derived cholesterol.
We studied the influence of altered ionic conditions on the recycling of synaptic vesicle membrane in frog retinal photoreceptors using horseradish peroxidase to monitor synaptic activity and trace the fate of internalized membrane. The addition of 1.2 mM barium or 20 mM tetraethylammonium to isolated retinas maintained in Ringer's solution, changes the usual balance of membrane circulation in the rod cells; the cone cells are much less affected. Retrieval of synaptic vesicle membrane in the rods, which normally regenerates small vesicles, becomes mediated predominantly by large sacs and vacuoles ("cisternae"). Because these cisternae can be labeled with peroxidase, they appear to arise from endocytized membrane. Morphometric analysis suggests strongly that the cisternae are formed of circulating synaptic vesicle membrane. The effects of barium and tetraethylammonium can be inhibited by high extracellular potassium, by high intensity light, and by 5 mM cobalt. They seem likely to depend on potassium channels, though additional more complex mediation may also be involved. The alterations in membrane retrieval that we find are of interest in terms of the multiple pathways of membrane cycling now being uncovered. They open potential experimental approaches to the controls of this circulation. In addition, the findings extend our previous ones demonstrating that rod cells and cone cells differ in their responses to divalent cations in ways that seem likely to be of physiological importance.