Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

Cholestenoic acid, an endogenous cholesterol metabolite, is a potent γ-secretase modulator



Amyloid-β (Aβ) 42 has been implicated as the initiating molecule in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD); thus, therapeutic strategies that target Aβ42 are of great interest. γ-Secretase modulators (GSMs) are small molecules that selectively decrease Aβ42. We have previously reported that many acidic steroids are GSMs with potencies ranging in the low to mid micromolar concentration with 5β-cholanic acid being the most potent steroid identified GSM with half maximal effective concentration (EC50) of 5.7 μM.


We find that the endogenous cholesterol metabolite, 3β-hydroxy-5-cholestenoic acid (CA), is a steroid GSM with enhanced potency (EC50 of 250 nM) relative to 5β-cholanic acid. CA i) is found in human plasma at ~100-300 nM concentrations ii) has the typical acidic GSM signature of decreasing Aβ42 and increasing Aβ38 levels iii) is active in in vitro γ-secretase assay iv) is made in the brain. To test if CA acts as an endogenous GSM, we used Cyp27a1 knockout (Cyp27a1-/-) and Cyp7b1 knockout (Cyp7b1-/-) mice to investigate if manipulation of cholesterol metabolism pathways relevant to CA formation would affect brain Aβ42 levels. Our data show that Cyp27a1-/- had increased brain Aβ42, whereas Cyp7b1-/- mice had decreased brain Aβ42 levels; however, peripheral dosing of up to 100 mg/kg CA did not affect brain Aβ levels. Structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies with multiple known and novel CA analogs studies failed to reveal CA analogs with increased potency.


These data suggest that CA may act as an endogenous GSM within the brain. Although it is conceptually attractive to try and increase the levels of CA in the brain for prevention of AD, our data suggest that this will not be easily accomplished.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View