Niemann Pick type C (NPC) disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. In cells lacking functional NPC1 protein, endocytosed cholesterol accumulates in late endosomes/lysosomes. We utilized primary neuronal cultures in which cell bodies and distal axons reside in separate compartments to investigate the requirement of NPC1 protein for transport of cholesterol from cell bodies to distal axons. We have recently observed that in NPC1-deficient neurons compared with wild-type neurons, cholesterol accumulates in cell bodies but is reduced in distal axons (Karten, B., Vance, D. E., Campenot, R. B., and Vance, J. E. (2002) J. Neurochem. 83, 1154-1163). We now show that NPC1 protein is expressed in both cell bodies and distal axons. In NPC1-deficient neurons, cholesterol delivered to cell bodies from low density lipoproteins (LDLs), high density lipoproteins, or cyclodextrin complexes was transported into axons in normal amounts, whereas transport of endogenously synthesized cholesterol was impaired. Inhibition of cholesterol synthesis with pravastatin in wild-type and NPC1-deficient neurons reduced axonal growth. However, LDLs restored a normal rate of growth to wild-type but not NPC1-deficient neurons treated with pravastatin. Thus, although LDL cholesterol is transported into axons of NPC1-deficient neurons, this source of cholesterol does not sustain normal axonal growth. Over the lifespan of NPC1-deficient neurons, these defects in cholesterol transport might be responsible for the observed altered distribution of cholesterol between cell bodies and axons and, consequently, might contribute to the neurological dysfunction in NPC disease.