The true rate of cholesterogenesis in cultured monocyte-macrophages was determined from the incorporation of [2-14C]acetate into cholesterol, using the desmosterol (cholesta-5,24-dien-3 beta-ol) that accumulated in the presence of the drug triparanol to estimate the specific radioactivity of the newly formed sterols. It was shown that this procedure could be successfully adapted for use with cultured monocytes despite the accumulation of other unidentified biosynthetic intermediates. In cells maintained in 20% (v/v) whole serum approx. 25% of the sterol carbon was derived from exogenous acetate. Cholesterol synthesis was as high in normal cells as in cells from homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemic (FH) subjects and accounted for 50% of the increase in cellular cholesterol. The addition of extra low-density lipoprotein (LDL) reduced cholesterol synthesis, apparently through a decrease in the activity of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMG-CoA reductase). When incubated in lipoprotein-deficient serum some cells did not survive, but those that remained showed a normal increase in protein content; the amount of cellular protein and cholesterol in each well did not increase and cholesterol synthesis was reduced by over 80%. HMG-CoA reductase activity fell less dramatically and the proportion of sterol carbon derived from exogenous acetate increased, suggesting that the low rate of cholesterogenesis with lipoprotein-deficient serum was due to a shortage of substrate. The results indicate that under normal conditions monocyte-macrophages obtain cholesterol from endogenous synthesis rather than through receptor-mediated uptake of LDL, and that synthesis together with non-saturable uptake of LDL provides the majority of the cholesterol required to support growth.

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