The proper distribution of sterols among organelles is critical for numerous cellular functions. How sterols are sorted and moved among membranes remains poorly understood, but they are transported not only in vesicles but also by non-vesicular pathways. One of these pathways moves exogenous sterols from the plasma membrane to the endoplasmic reticulum in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We have found that two classes of proteins play critical roles in this transport, ABC transporters (ATP-binding-cassette transporters) and oxysterol-binding protein-related proteins. Transport is also regulated by phosphoinositides and the interactions of sterols with other lipids. Here, we summarize these findings and speculate on the role of non-vesicular sterol transfer in determining intracellular sterol distribution and membrane function.

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