Cholesterol is mostly removed from the CNS by its conversion to cerebrosterol (24(S)-hydroxycholesterol, 24(S)OH-C), which is transported to the circulation for bile formation in liver. A neurotoxic role of this oxysterol was previously demonstrated in cell culture. Here, we provide evidence that the enzyme lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase, long known to esterify cholesterol, also produces monoesters of 24(S)OH-C. Proteoliposomes containing apolipoprotein A-I or apolipoprotein E were used to stimulate the enzyme activity and entrap the formed esters. Proteoliposomes with apolipoprotein A-I were found to be more active than those with apolipoprotein E in stimulating the production of oxysteryl esters. Cholesterol and 24(S)OH-C were found to compete for enzyme activity. High levels of haptoglobin, as those circulating during the acute inflammatory phase, inhibited 24(S)OH-C esterification. When highly neurotoxic 24(S)OH-C was treated with enzyme and proteoliposomes before incubation with differentiated SH-SY5Y cells, the neuron survival improved. The esters of 24(S)OH-C, embedded into proteoliposomes by the enzyme and isolated from unesterified 24(S)OH-C by gel filtration chromatography, did not enter the neurons in culture. These results suggest that the enzyme, in the presence of the apolipoproteins, converts 24(S)OH-C into esters restricted to the extracellular environment, thus preventing or limiting oxysterol-induced neurotoxic injuries to neurons in culture.
24-hydroxycholesterol (24(S)OH-C) is neurotoxic. The enzyme lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) synthesizes monoesters of 24(S)OH-C in reaction mixtures with proteoliposomes containing phospholipids and apolipoprotein A-I or apolipoprotein E. The esters, also produced by incubation of cerebrospinal fluid only with tritiated 24(S)OH-C, are embedded into lipoproteins that do not enter neurons in culture. The enzyme activity limits the toxicity of 24-hydroxycholesterol in neuron culture.