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Ergosterol vs. Cholesterol: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 22, 2023
Ergosterol is a sterol found in fungi and some protozoa, crucial for their cell membrane integrity and vitamin D2 synthesis, whereas cholesterol is a sterol in animal cells, essential for cell membrane stability and as a precursor for steroid hormones.

Key Differences

Ergosterol plays a key role in maintaining the structural integrity of fungal cell membranes. Cholesterol serves a similar structural role in animal cell membranes, contributing to their fluidity and integrity.
Ergosterol is predominantly found in fungi and some protozoa. In contrast, cholesterol is a major component in the cell membranes of animals, including humans, and is absent in plants and fungi.
Ergosterol is vital for the function and growth of fungal cells and is a precursor to vitamin D2. Cholesterol is essential for the production of steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D3 in animals.
Ergosterol is targeted by antifungal medications, as its disruption affects fungal survival. Cholesterol, while essential, can contribute to health issues like atherosclerosis when levels are unbalanced in humans.
Humans do not produce ergosterol, and it is typically not significant in their diet. Cholesterol, however, is synthesized in the liver and can also be consumed through animal-based foods.

Comparison Chart

Found In

Fungi and some protozoa
Animal cells

Biological Role

Maintains fungal cell membrane integrity
Stabilizes animal cell membranes

Key Functions

Precursor to vitamin D2
Precursor to steroid hormones, vitamin D3

Health Implications

Target for antifungal drugs
Linked to cardiovascular diseases in excess

Dietary Source

Not significant in human diet
Found in animal-based foods

Ergosterol and Cholesterol Definitions


A sterol component in fungal cell membranes.
Ergosterol is essential for fungal cell survival.


Produced in the liver and obtained from animal-based foods.
Meat, eggs, and dairy products are rich in cholesterol.


A target for antifungal medications.
Antifungal drugs work by inhibiting ergosterol synthesis.


A precursor for steroid hormones and vitamin D3.
Cholesterol is vital for synthesizing hormones like estrogen and testosterone.


A precursor to vitamin D2 in fungi.
Sunlight exposure converts ergosterol to vitamin D2 in mushrooms.


A substance linked to cardiovascular health.
High cholesterol levels can increase heart disease risk.


A biological molecule distinct to fungi.
Ergosterol's presence helps distinguish fungi from other organisms.


A sterol in animal cell membranes for stability.
Cholesterol is a key component of human cell membranes.


A compound contributing to the integrity of fungal cells.
Ergosterol is crucial for maintaining the fungal cell structure.


A molecule balancing fluidity in animal cell membranes.
Cholesterol contributes to the optimal function of cell membranes.


A crystalline sterol, C28H43OH, synthesized by yeast from sugars or derived from ergot and converted to vitamin D2 when exposed to ultraviolet radiation.


A white crystalline substance, C27H45OH, that is found in animal tissues and various foods and is important as a constituent of cell membranes and a precursor to steroid hormones. Cholesterol is normally synthesized by the liver and is transported through the bloodstream by different types of lipoproteins, two of which (HDL and LDL) are routinely measured in blood tests.


The steroid precursor of vitamin D2. It is found in cell membranes of fungi, and is their functional equivalent of cholesterol. It is also found in the membranes of some protists.


(biochemistry) A sterol lipid synthesized by the liver and transported in the bloodstream to the membranes of all animal cells; it plays a central role in many biochemical processes and, as a lipoprotein that coats the walls of blood vessels, is associated with cardiovascular disease.


A plant sterol that is converted into vitamin D by ultraviolet radiation.


The level of cholesterol in the body.
Improve your cholesterol; lower your cholesterol


A plant sterol that is converted into vitamin D by ultraviolet radiation


An animal sterol that is normally synthesized by the liver; the most abundant steroid in animal tissues


What is ergosterol?

Ergosterol is a sterol found in the cell membranes of fungi and some protozoa.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a sterol essential for the structure and function of animal cell membranes.

What is the role of ergosterol in fungi?

Ergosterol maintains the integrity and fluidity of fungal cell membranes.

What is the role of cholesterol in humans?

Cholesterol stabilizes cell membranes and is a precursor for hormones and vitamin D3.

Do antifungal drugs target ergosterol?

Yes, many antifungal drugs target the synthesis or function of ergosterol in fungi.

Where is cholesterol found?

Cholesterol is found in animal cells and is absent in plants and fungi.

Can humans produce cholesterol?

Yes, the human liver synthesizes cholesterol.

How does cholesterol affect human health?

Balanced cholesterol levels are vital for health, but excess can lead to heart disease.

Where is ergosterol found?

Ergosterol is primarily found in fungi and some protozoan species.

Is ergosterol in the human diet?

Ergosterol is not typically significant in the human diet.

Can humans produce ergosterol?

No, humans do not produce ergosterol.

How does ergosterol affect human health?

Ergosterol itself is not significant in human health but is a target for antifungal drugs.

Are ergosterol and cholesterol structurally similar?

They are both sterols, but they have different chemical structures.

What happens when ergosterol is inhibited?

Inhibiting ergosterol in fungi disrupts their cell membrane and can kill the fungal cells.

What are the sources of dietary cholesterol?

Dietary cholesterol comes primarily from meat, dairy products, and eggs.

Is ergosterol a vitamin D precursor?

Yes, ergosterol can be converted into vitamin D2 with sunlight exposure.

Can cholesterol levels be too high?

Yes, high cholesterol levels can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Can cholesterol be beneficial?

Cholesterol is essential for many body functions but needs to be balanced.

Is cholesterol in the human diet?

Cholesterol is found in animal-based foods and can be part of the human diet.

How is ergosterol different from plant sterols?

Ergosterol is specific to fungi, while plants have their unique sterols.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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