Cholesterol membrane content has a ubiquitous evolutionary function in immune cell activation: The role of HDL

Fabrizia Bonacina, Angela Pirillo, Alberico L. Catapano, Giuseppe D. Norata

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Purpose of reviewCellular cholesterol content influences the structure and function of lipid rafts, plasma membrane microdomains essential for cell signaling and activation. HDL modulate cellular cholesterol efflux, thus limiting cholesterol accumulation and controlling immune cell activation. Aim of this review is to discuss the link between HDL and cellular cholesterol metabolism in immune cells and the therapeutic potential of targeting cholesterol removal from cell membranes.Recent findingsThe inverse relationship between HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease has been recently challenged by observations linking elevated levels of HDL-C with increased risk of all-cause mortality, infections and autoimmune diseases, paralleled by the failure of clinical trials with HDL-C-raising therapies. These findings suggest that improving HDL function might be more important than merely raising HDL-C levels. New approaches aimed at increasing the ability of HDL to remove cellular cholesterol have been assessed for their effect on immune cells, and the results have suggested that this could be a new effective approach.SummaryCholesterol removal from plasma membrane by different means affects the activity of immune cells, suggesting that approaches aimed at increasing the ability of HDL to mobilize cholesterol from cells would represent the next step in HDL biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-469
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Opinion in Lipidology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2019



  • cholesterol
  • HDL
  • immune cells
  • lipid rafts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Cell Biology

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