A new model to study cholesterol uptake in the human intestine in vitro is described. Human small intestine organ cultures were incubated with mixed micelles containing bile acid, phospholipid, and cholesterol or its nonabsorbable analogue, sitosterol; trace amounts of labeled cholesterol or sitosterol were added to the micelles. After incubation, the lipids were extracted from the cells and cholesterol and sitosterol uptake was evaluated. Specific cholesterol uptake was determined as a difference between cholesterol and sitosterol uptake. Cholesterol, but not sitosterol, uptake was time- and dose-dependent. Rapid and slow phases of cholesterol uptake were observed. Cholesterol uptake was also temperature-dependent. Removal of epithelial cells from human intestine explants reduced cholesterol, but not sitosterol, uptake. Inhibition of acyl CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase by Sandoz compound 58-035 and treatment with monensin reduced cholesterol uptake, but not sitosterol uptake, in a dose-dependent manner. In contrast, treatment of cultures with an inhibitor of 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl coenzyme A reductase, lovastatin, stimulated cholesterol, but not sitosterol, uptake in a dose-dependent manner; mevalonic acid reversed the effect of lovastatin. The presented model allows large-scale in vitro studies of different stages of cholesterol absorption in the human intestine.