Cholesterol with BODIPY at carbon-24 of the side chain (BCh2) has recently been introduced as new cholesterol probe with superior fluorescence properties. We compare BCh2 with the intrinsically fluorescent dehythoergosterol (DHE), a well-established marker for cholesterol, by introducing simultaneous imaging of both sterols in model membranes and living cells. BCh2 had a lower affinity than DHE for the biologically relevant liquid-ordered phase in model membranes. Still, DHE and BCh2 trafficked from the plasma membrane to the endocytic recycling compartment (ERC) of BHK cells with identical kinetics. This transport pathway was strongly reduced after energy depletion of cells or expression of the dominant-negative clathrin heavy chain. The partitioning into lipid droplets of BHK and HeLa cells was higher for BCh2 than for DHE. Within droplets, the photodegradation of BCh2 was enhanced and followed a stretched exponential decay, while the fluorescence lifetime of BCh2 was comparable in various cellular regions. Our results indicate that BCh2 is suitable for analyzing sterol uptake pathways and inter-organelle sterol flux in living cells. The BODIPY-moiety affects lipid phase preference of the sterol probe and causes some differential targeting of BCh2 and DHE in cells with high fat content. (c) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.