The molecular mechanisms that govern intracellular transport of sterols in eukaryotic cells are only poorly understood. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a facultative anaerobic organism that requires supplementation with unsaturated fatty acids and sterols to grow in the absence of oxygen, as the synthesis of these lipids requires molecular oxygen. The fact that yeast grows well under anaerobic conditions indicates that lipid uptake is rapid and efficient. To identify components in this lipid uptake and transport pathway, we screened the yeast mutant collection for genes that are essential under anaerobic conditions. Out of the approx. 4800 non-essential genes represented in the mutant collection, 37 were required for growth under anaerobic conditions. Uptake assays using radiolabelled cholesterol revealed that 16 of these genes are required for cholesterol uptake/transport and esterification. Further characterization of the precise role of these genes is likely to advance our understanding of this elusive pathway in yeast and may prove to be relevant to understand sterol homoeostasis in higher eukaryotic cells.

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