β-sitosterol inhibits high cholesterol-induced platelet β-amyloid release

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Abstract

Recently, increasing evidence has linked high cholesterol to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), suggesting that cholesterol may be a target for developing new compounds to prevent or treat AD. Plant sterols, a group of sterols enriched in plant oils, nuts, and avocados, have the structure very similar to that of cholesterol, and have been widely used to reduce blood cholesterol. Due to their cholesterol-lowering property, plant sterols such as β-sitosterol may also influence cholesterol-depending functions including its role in AD development. Using human platelets, a type of peripheral blood cells containing the most circulating amyloid precursor protein (APP), this study investigated the effect of β-sitosterol on high cholesterol-induced secretion of β amyloid protein (Aβ). It was found that β-sitosterol effectively inhibited high cholesterol-driven platelet Aβ release. In addition, β-sitosterol prevented high cholesterol-induced increase of activities of β- and γ-secretase, two APP cleaving enzymes to generate Aβ. Additional experiments showed that high cholesterol up-regulated lipid raft cholesterol. This effect of cholesterol could be suppressed by β-sitosterol. These findings suggest that β-sitosterol is able to inhibit high cholesterol-induced Aβ release probably through maintenance of membrane cholesterol homeostasis. Given that dietary plant sterols have the potential of penetrating the blood-brain barrier (BBB), these data suggest that plant sterols such as β-sitosterol may be useful in AD prevention.

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