Sterols, also known as steroid alcohols, are a subgroup of the steroids and an important class of organic molecules. They occur naturally in plants, animals, and fungi, and can be also produced by some bacteria (however likely with different functions). The most familiar type of animal sterol is cholesterol, which is vital to cell membrane structure, and functions as a precursor to fat-soluble vitamins and steroid hormones.
Sterols of plants are called phytosterols and sterols of animals are called zoosterols. The most important zoosterol is cholesterol; notable phytosterols include campesterol, sitosterol, and stigmasterol. Ergosterol is a sterol present in the cell membrane of fungi, where it serves a role similar to cholesterol in animal cells.