Increased blood cholesterol is an independent risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol homeostasis in the body is controlled mainly by endogenous synthesis, intestinal absorption, and hepatic excretion. Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1 (NPC1L1) is a polytopic transmembrane protein localized at the apical membrane of enterocytes and the canalicular membrane of hepatocytes. It functions as a sterol transporter to mediate intestinal cholesterol absorption and counterbalances hepatobiliary cholesterol excretion. NPC1L1 is the molecular target of ezetimibe, a potent cholesterol absorption inhibitor that is widely used in treating hypercholesterolemia. Recent findings suggest that NPC1L1 deficiency or ezetimibe treatment also prevents diet-induced hepatic steatosis and obesity in addition to reducing blood cholesterol. Future studies should focus on molecular mechanisms underlying NPC1L1-dependent cholesterol transport and elucidation of how a cholesterol transporter modulates the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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