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Open Access Research

Consequences of over-expression of rat Scavenger Receptor, SR-BI, in an adrenal cell model

Eve Reaven1, Ann Nomoto1, Yuan Cortez1 and Salman Azhar12*

Author Affiliations

1 Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC), Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA

2 Digestive Disease Center, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2006, 3:43  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-3-43

Published: 15 December 2006



The plasma membrane scavenger receptor, SR-BI, mediates the 'selective uptake' process by which cholesteryl esters (CE) from exogenously supplied HDL are taken up by target cells. Recent work suggests that dimer and higher order oligomeric forms of the SR-BI protein are important to this process. SR-BI has been shown to be particularly associated with microvilli and microvillar channels found at the cell surface of steroidogenic cells, and a study with the hormone stimulated adrenal gland has shown impressive changes in the size and complexity of the microvillar compartment as the mass of CE uptake (and accompanying steroidogenesis) fluctuates. In the present study, we examine a cell line in which we overexpress the SR-BI protein to determine if morphological, biochemical and functional events associated with SR-BI in a controlled cell system are similar to those observed in the intact mammalian adrenal which is responsive to systemic factors.


Y1-BS1 mouse adrenocortical cells were transiently transfected using rat SR-BI-pcDNA6-V5-His, rat SR-BI-pcDNA6-cMyc-His or control pcDNA6-V5-His vector construct using a CaPO4 precipitation technique. Twenty four hours after transfection, cells were treated with, or without, Bt2cAMP, and SR-BI expression, CE uptake, and steroidogenesis was measured. SR-BI dimerization and cell surface architectural changes were assessed using immunoelectron microscopic techniques.


Overexpression of the scavenger receptor protein, SR-BI, in Y1-BS1 cells results in major alterations in cell surface architecture designed to increase uptake of HDL supplied-CEs. Changes include [1] the formation of crater-like erosions of the surface with multiple double membraned channel structures lining the craters, and [2] dimerized formations of SR-BI lining the newly formed craters and associated double membraned channels.


These data show that overexpression of the scavenger receptor protein, SR-BI (accompanied by suitable hormone treatment and lipoproteins) in susceptible mammalian cells – is associated with increased cholesterol uptake and SR-BI dimerization within a much enlarged and architecturally complex microvillar compartment. These changes duplicate the structural, biochemical and functional changes related to the uptake of HDL CEs normally signaled by the action of ACTH on intact adrenal tissue.