To the extent possible under law, AOP-Wiki has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to KE:447

Event: 447

Key Event Title

The KE title should describe a discrete biological change that can be measured. It should generally define the biological object or process being measured and whether it is increased, decreased, or otherwise definably altered relative to a control state. For example “enzyme activity, decreased”, “hormone concentration, increased”, or “growth rate, decreased”, where the specific enzyme or hormone being measured is defined. More help

Reduction, Cholesterol transport in mitochondria

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. The short name should be less than 80 characters in length. More help
Reduction, Cholesterol transport in mitochondria

Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. Note, KEs should be defined within a particular level of biological organization. Only KERs should be used to transition from one level of organization to another. Selection of the level of biological organization defines which structured terms will be available to select when defining the Event Components (below). More help
Level of Biological Organization

Cell term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Cell term
steroid hormone secreting cell

Organ term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help

Key Event Components

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.Because one of the aims of the AOP-KB is to facilitate de facto construction of AOP networks through the use of shared KE and KER elements, authors are also asked to define their KEs using a set of structured ontology terms (Event Components). In the absence of structured terms, the same KE can readily be defined using a number of synonymous titles (read by a computer as character strings). In order to make these synonymous KEs more machine-readable, KEs should also be defined by one or more “event components” consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 22 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; See List). Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling). The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signalling by that receptor).Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description. To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons. If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests. Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add. More help
Process Object Action
mitochondrial transport cholesterol decreased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
PPAR and reproductive toxicity KeyEvent Elise Grignard (send email) Not under active development Under Development
PPARα activation leading to impaired fertility KeyEvent Elise Grignard (send email) Open for citation & comment EAGMST Under Review


This is a structured field used to identify specific agents (generally chemicals) that can trigger the KE. Stressors identified in this field will be linked to the KE in a machine-readable manner, such that, for example, a stressor search would identify this as an event the stressor can trigger. NOTE: intermediate or downstream KEs in one AOP may function as MIEs in other AOPs, meaning that stressor information may be added to the KE description, even if it is a downstream KE in the pathway currently under development.Information concerning the stressors that may trigger an MIE can be defined using a combination of structured and unstructured (free-text) fields. For example, structured fields may be used to indicate specific chemicals for which there is evidence of an interaction relevant to this MIE. By linking the KE description to a structured chemical name, it will be increasingly possible to link the MIE to other sources of chemical data and information, enhancing searchability and inter-operability among different data-sources and knowledgebases. The free-text section “Evidence for perturbation of this MIE by stressor” can be used both to identify the supporting evidence for specific stressors triggering the MIE as well as to define broad chemical categories or other properties that classify the stressors able to trigger the MIE for which specific structured terms may not exist. More help

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) can be selected from an ontology. In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
human Homo sapiens High NCBI
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI

Life Stages

The structured ontology terms for life-stage are more comprehensive than those for taxa, but may still require further description/development and explanation in the free text section. More help

Sex Applicability

No help message More help

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. For example, the biological state being measured could be the activity of an enzyme, the expression of a gene or abundance of an mRNA transcript, the concentration of a hormone or protein, neuronal activity, heart rate, etc. The biological compartment may be a particular cell type, tissue, organ, fluid (e.g., plasma, cerebrospinal fluid), etc. The role in the biology could describe the reaction that an enzyme catalyses and the role of that reaction within a given metabolic pathway; the protein that a gene or mRNA transcript codes for and the function of that protein; the function of a hormone in a given target tissue, physiological function of an organ, etc. Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs, KERs or AOPs. Only describe this KE as a single isolated measurable event/state. This will ensure that the KE is modular and can be used by other AOPs, thereby facilitating construction of AOP networks. More help

Biological state

Steroidogenesis begins with the transport of cholesterol from intracellular stores into mitochondria. This process involves a series of protein-protein interactions involving cytosolic and mitochondrial proteins located at both the outer and inner mitochondrial membranes. In steroidogenic cells the cholesterol import to the mitochondrial inner membrane is crucial for steroid synthesis (Rone, Fan, and Papadopoulos 2009). This process is facilitated by the Scavenger Receptor Class B, type 1 (SR-B1) [more relevant for rodents, than for humans] that mediates the selective uptake of cholesterol esters from high-density lipoproteins. Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR) and the translator protein (TSPO) [former peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR)] mediate cholesterol transport from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membrane. The conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone is done by Cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450scc), the start of steroidogenesis [reviewed in (Miller and Auchus 2011)].

Biological compartments

In mitochondria of steroidogenic tissues there are two specialized mechanisms related to hormone synthesis: one by which cholesterol is delivered to the mitochondria and the other by which specialized intra-mitochondrial enzymes participate in the synthesis of hormonal steroids.

General role in biology

Systemic steroid hormones are primarily formed by the gonads, adrenal glands, and during in utero development by the placenta. Some other organs like brain (Baulieu 1998), and heart (Kayes-Wandover and White 2000) have also been identified as steroid-producing tissues, mainly for local needs. The steroid hormones are indispensable for mammalian life. They are made from cholesterol via complex biosynthetic pathways that are initiated by specialized, tissue-specific enzymes in mitochondria. These hormones include glucocorticoids (cortisol, corticosterone) and mineralocorticoids (aldosterone) produced in the adrenal cortex, estrogens (estradiol), progestins (progesterone) and androgens (testosterone, dihydrotestosterone) produced in the gonads, and calciferols (1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D [1,25OH2D]) produced in the kidneys (Miller and Auchus 2011). Cholesterol is the precursor for the synthesis of steroid hormones in mitochondria. Steroidogenesis begins with the metabolism of cholesterol to pregnenolone facilitated by P450scc. The rate of steroid formation depends on the rate of cholesterol transport from intracellular stores to the inner mitochondrial membrane and the loading of P450scc with cholesterol (Miller and Auchus 2011). Interference with one or more of these reactions leads to reduced steroid production.

How It Is Measured or Detected

One of the primary considerations in evaluating AOPs is the relevance and reliability of the methods with which the KEs can be measured. The aim of this section of the KE description is not to provide detailed protocols, but rather to capture, in a sentence or two, per method, the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements. Methods that can be used to detect or measure the biological state represented in the KE should be briefly described and/or cited. These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA).Key considerations regarding scientific confidence in the measurement approach include whether the assay is fit for purpose, whether it provides a direct or indirect measure of the biological state in question, whether it is repeatable and reproducible, and the extent to which it is accepted in the scientific and/or regulatory community. Information can be obtained from the OECD Test Guidelines website and the EURL ECVAM Database Service on Alternative Methods to Animal Experimentation (DB-ALM). ?

This KE can be indirectly measured by:

1. Expression of the proteins involved in cholesterol transport by qPCR or Western blot.

3. Cholesterol transport to the mitochondrial inner membrane in intact cells:

  • Indirectly as pregnenolone formation by cells. The pregnenolone concentration is assayed by commercially available radioimmunoassays and reflects the amount of cholesterol transported to the mitochondrial inner membrane (Charman et al. 2010).
  • Filipin staining is one of the most widely used tools for studying intracellular cholesterol distribution. The fluorescent detergent filipin binds selectively to cholesterol (and not to cholesterol esters) (Schroeder, Holland, and Bieber 1971). Filipin can be only used for the qualitative analysis of cholesterol distribution, since its fluorescence intensity is not necessarily linearly related to cholesterol content.

The cholesterol transport can be measured in vitro cultured Leydig cells. The methods for culturing Leydig cells can be found in the Database Service on Alternative Methods to animal experimentation (DB-ALM): Leydig Cell-enriched Cultures [1] Testicular Organ and Tissue Culture Systems [2]

Domain of Applicability

This free text section should be used to elaborate on the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided). While structured terms may be selected to define the taxonomic, life stage and sex applicability (see structured applicability terms, above) of the KE, the structured terms may not adequately reflect or capture the overall biological applicability domain (particularly with regard to taxa). Likewise, the structured terms do not provide an explanation or rationale for the selection. The free-text section on evidence for taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability can be used to elaborate on why the specific structured terms were selected, and provide supporting references and background information.  More help

The enzymes needed for cholesterol transport were found in amphioxus and are present in vertebrates (Albalat et al. 2011).


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. Ideally, the list of references, should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide ( (OECD, 2015). More help

Albalat, Ricard, Frédéric Brunet, Vincent Laudet, and Michael Schubert. 2011. “Evolution of Retinoid and Steroid Signaling: Vertebrate Diversification from an Amphioxus Perspective.” Genome Biology and Evolution 3: 985–1005. doi:10.1093/gbe/evr084.

Baulieu, E E. 1998. “Neurosteroids: A Novel Function of the Brain.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 23 (8) (November): 963–87.

Charman, Mark, Barry E Kennedy, Nolan Osborne, and Barbara Karten. 2010. “MLN64 Mediates Egress of Cholesterol from Endosomes to Mitochondria in the Absence of Functional Niemann-Pick Type C1 Protein.” Journal of Lipid Research 51 (5) (May): 1023–34. doi:10.1194/jlr.M002345.

Kayes-Wandover, K M, and P C White. 2000. “Steroidogenic Enzyme Gene Expression in the Human Heart.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 85 (7) (July): 2519–25. doi:10.1210/jcem.85.7.6663.

Miller, Walter L, and Richard J Auchus. 2011. “The Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Physiology of Human Steroidogenesis and Its Disorders.” Endocrine Reviews 32 (1) (February): 81–151. doi:10.1210/er.2010-0013.

Rone, Malena B, Jinjiang Fan, and Vassilios Papadopoulos. 2009. “Cholesterol Transport in Steroid Biosynthesis: Role of Protein-Protein Interactions and Implications in Disease States.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1791 (7) (July): 646–58. doi:10.1016/j.bbalip.2009.03.001.

Schroeder, F, J F Holland, and L L Bieber. 1971. “Fluorometric Evidence for the Binding of Cholesterol to the Filipin Complex.” The Journal of Antibiotics 24 (12) (December): 846–9.

Steer, C. 1984. “Detection of Membrane Cholesterol by Filipin in Isolated Rat Liver Coated Vesicles Is Dependent upon Removal of the Clathrin Coat.” The Journal of Cell Biology 99 (1) (July 1): 315–319. doi:10.1083/jcb.99.1.315.