ISSN 1062-3604, Russian Journal of Developmental Biology, 2008, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 131–150. © Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2008.
Original Russian Text © A.P. Perevozchikov, 2008, published in Ontogenez, 2008, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 165–189.
The advances in cell biology has made the of cell-to-
cell signal transmission (signaling) the key concept in
developmental biology that explain the molecular bases
of gametogenesis, fertilization, early development,
morphogenesis, and embryonic growth (Gilbert, 2003).
This concept is used to describe the relationship
between cell differentiation and proliferation, embry-
onic induction, cell movements, cell–cell interactions,
apoptosis, and cell stress (Leyton and Quest, 2004). At
the same time, low molecular weight substances of dif-
ferent chemical nature, e.g., retinoic acid or steroids,
can mediate signaling into the cell in addition to the
paracrine factors and protein hormones (Krauss, 2003).
Recent research of lipids has identiﬁed ceramides as
molecules involved in cell-to-cell signaling (
, 2006). In this review, we tried to analyze
the role of sterols and their transport systems in cell-to-
cell signaling during animal development using a com-
parative approach to the role of sterols in signaling in
animals of different evolutionary levels. Due to the
abundance of data on the functions of steroid hormones
(speciﬁc polyhydroxysterols) in animal vital activity,
the problems covering the role of the proper sterols are
marginally considered below.
Lipids are important compounds in terms of energy
and structure, and they constitute a considerable frac-
tion of the cell material in eukaryotes (Klimov and
Nikul’cheva, 1999). Animal lipids include glycerides
that are esters of glycerol with fatty acids (di- and trig-
lycerides), sphingosides that are esters of sphingosine
with fatty acids, phospholipids (largely phosphatidyl-
choline, phosphatidylserine, phosphoethanolamine,
sphingomyelin, and phosphoinositides), glycolipids
(cerebrosides and gangliosides), sterols, and, according
to some reports, fatty acids. Some lipids are a plastic
component of the cell and a component of various
membranes (sphingolipids, phospholipids, and sterols);
other lipids are one of the major energy substrates for
the cell (glycerides and fatty acids); third ones can be
considered as cell-to-cell signaling molecules or sec-
ondary messengers (phosphoinositides). Considerable
lipid quantities are required for cell emergence during
active proliferation (e.g., in morphogenesis) or for
active physical activity of cells and their derivatives
(muscle). Lipids are stored in the oocytes (often
together with yolk protein in vitellogenesis) to realize
the program of stable (reproducible) development of
multicellular animals from the egg (Rothchild, 2003).
In this context, lipids should be efﬁciently trans-
ported to their utilization or storage sites; in addition,
they can be synthesized in situ. Thus, there are three
sources of lipids in the cell: the synthesis of endoge-
nous lipid molecules, their transport from the sites of
active synthesis, and transport of food lipids.
The plastic (structural), energy, and information
(signaling) roles of lipids came to be distinguished
recently. Among the wide range of lipids (phospholip-
ids, glycolipids, fatty acids and their esters with glyc-
erol (glycerides) or sphingosine (sphingosides), and
sterols), we will focus on the structural and signaling
role of sterols in animal vital activity. As mentioned
above, the sterol involvement in the development as
well as evolutionary changes in the range and role of
sterols and their derivatives will be considered in a wide
range of multicellular animals from primitive inverte-
brates to higher vertebrates.
Sterols and Their Transport in Animal Development
A. P. Perevozchikov
Research Institute of Experimental Medicine, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, ul. akademika Pavlova 12
St. Petersburg, 197376 Russia
St. Petersburg State University, Universitetskaya nab. 7/9, St. Petersburg, 199034 Russia
Received February 2, 2007; in ﬁnal form, October 8, 2007
—The cellular content of different sterols in invertebrates and vertebrates as well as their origin
(endogenous and food sources) and signiﬁcance for the life cycle are comparatively reviewed. The initial sig-
naling role of sterols in the vital activity (in all multicellular animals) and later obligatory incorporation of cer-
tain sterols in cell membranes as a plastic components (in vertebrates) are proposed based on the presented data.
: sterols, cholesterol, sterol transport, steroid hormones, sterol receptors, apolipophorins, apolipopro-
teins, development of invertebrates and vertebrates.