Issue: 2013 > November > review

Intestinal cholesterol secretion: future clinical implications

L. Jakulj, J. Besseling, E.S.G. Stroes, A.K. Groen


Together with the liver, the intestine serves as a homeostatic organ in cholesterol metabolism. Recent
evidence has substantiated the pivotal role of the intestine in reverse cholesterol transport (RCT). RCT is
a fundamental antiatherogenic pathway, mediating the
removal of cholesterol from tissues in the body to the
faeces. In humans, faecal cholesterol elimination via the
RCT pathway is considered to be restricted to excretion
via the hepatobiliary route. Recently, however, direct
trans-intestinal excretion of plasma-derived cholesterol
(TICE) was shown to contribute substantially to faecal
neutral sterol (FNS) excretion in mice. TICE was found to
be amenable to stimulation by various pharmacological and dietary interventions in mice, offering new options to target the intestine as an inducible, cholesterol-excretory organ. The relevance of TICE for cholesterol elimination in humans remains to be established. There is, however, emerging evidence for the presence of TICE in human (patho) physiology. This review discusses our current understanding of TICE and its novel therapeutic potential for individuals at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.