CBBM Lecture "Cholesterol in myelin biogenesis and disorders"

by Gesine Saher, PhD,

Project Research Group "Cholesterol in the nervous system",

Max-Planck-Institute of Experimental Medicine Göttingen

will take place on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 17:15 to 18:15 hours in CBBM, EG, Room 50/51.

Host: Prof. Markus Schwaninger
Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology
Universität zu Lübeck


In the brain, several functions have been attributed to cholesterol, such as neuronal differentiation, neurite outgrowth, and synaptogenesis. However, the bulk amount of cholesterol in the brain resides in myelin. About 25% of the free cholesterol of an entire adult mouse is incorporated in myelin membranes. In the brain, myelin even accounts for about 80% of the brain cholesterol content. Given that sterol synthesis is a complex and energy consuming process, the animal devotes substantial effort to establish and maintain this large and quite homogenous pool of cholesterol. This suggests that cholesterol in myelin serves essential brain functions. Cholesterol influences myelination at many steps, from the differentiation of myelinating glial cells, over the process of myelin membrane biogenesis, to the functionality of mature myelin. Cholesterol emerged as the only integral myelin component that is essential and rate-limiting for the development of myelin in the central and peripheral nervous system. Moreover, disorders that interfere with sterol synthesis or intracellular trafficking of cholesterol and other lipids cause hypomyelination and neurodegeneration.


Gesine Saher obtained her PhD in biochemistry from the LMU Munich. Since 2010, she is leader of the project group “cholesterol in the nervous system” in the department of neurogenetics at the Max-Planck-Institute of Experimental Medicine in Göttingen, Germany. In her research, she focusses on the role of lipid metabolism in the development of the brain and the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders.