SREBPs serve to regulate all 12 enzymes in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway including the rate limiting enzyme HMGCoA reductase (HMGR). High dietary sterol levels acting on SCAP ultimately stop the maturation of SREBPs, resulting in the down regulation of key enzymes such as HMGR, thus, reducing the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver. Limiting cholesterol synthesis leads to a homeostatic response in which cells increase the density of LDL receptors on their surfaces. This increases the clearance rate of LDL particles from the plasma and reduces plasma LDL cholesterol and its related health risks. The decrease in cholesterol synthesis also promotes an increase of HDL, thus, clearing even more cholesterol from the plasma.
Biosynthesis of cholesterol is directly regulated by the cholesterol levels present, though the homeostatic mechanisms involved are only partly understood. A higher intake from food leads to a net decrease in endogenous production, whereas lower intake from food has the opposite effect. The main regulatory mechanism is the sensing of intracellular cholesterol in the endoplasmic reticulum by the protein SREBP (sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 and 2). In the presence of cholesterol, SREBP is bound to two other proteins: SCAP (SREBP-cleavage-activating protein) and Insig1. When cholesterol levels fall, Insig-1 dissociates from the SREBP-SCAP complex, allowing the complex to migrate to the Golgi apparatus, where SREBP is cleaved by S1P and S2P (site-1 and -2 protease), two enzymes that are activated by SCAP when cholesterol levels are low. The cleaved SREBP then migrates to the nucleus and acts as a transcription factor to bind to the SRE (sterol regulatory element), which stimulates the transcription of many genes. Among these are the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and HMG-CoA reductase. The former scavenges circulating LDL from the bloodstream, whereas HMG-CoA reductase leads to an increase of endogenous production of cholesterol. A large part of this signaling pathway was clarified by Dr. Michael S. Brown and Dr. Joseph L. Goldstein in the 1970s. In 1985, they received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work. Their subsequent work shows how the SREBP pathway regulates expression of many genes that control lipid formation and metabolism and body fuel allocation. Cholesterol synthesis can be turned off when cholesterol levels are high, as well. HMG CoA reductase contains both a cytosolic domain (responsible for its catalytic function) and a membrane domain. The membrane domain functions to sense signals for its degradation. Increasing concentrations of cholesterol (and other sterols) cause a change in this domain's oligomerization state, which makes it more susceptible to destruction by the proteosome. This enzyme's activity can also be reduced by phosphorylation by an AMP-activated protein kinase. Because this kinase is activated by AMP, which is produced when ATP is hydrolyzed, it follows that cholesterol synthesis is halted when ATP levels are low  .
Three independent clinical studies of women (i) non-pregnant at child-bearing age, (ii) in early pregnancy, and (iii) at delivery showed that low vitamin B12 status was associated with higher total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and cholesterol-to-HDL ratio. These results guided the investigation into the cellular mechanisms of induced cholesterol biosynthesis due to vitamin B12 deficiency, using human adipocytes as a model system. Adipocytes cultured in low or no vitamin B12 conditions had increased cholesterol and homocysteine levels compared to control. The induction of cholesterol biosynthesis was associated with reduced s-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet)-to-s-adenosylhomocysteine (AdoHcy) ratio, also known as methylation potential (MP). We therefore studied whether reduced MP could lead to hypomethylation of genes involved in the regulation of cholesterol biosynthesis. Genome-wide and targeted DNA methylation analysis identified that the promoter regions of SREBF1 and LDLR, two key regulators of cholesterol biosynthesis, were hypomethylated under vitamin B12-deficient conditions, and as a result, their expressions and cholesterol biosynthesis were also significantly increased. This finding was further confirmed by the addition of the methylation inhibitor, 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine, which resulted in increased SREBF1 and LDLR expressions and cholesterol accumulation in vitamin B12-sufficient conditions. Finally, we observed that the expression of SREBF1, LDLR, and cholesterol biosynthesis genes were increased in adipose tissue of vitamin B12 deficient mothers compared to control group.