Atypical case of Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome: Implications for diagnosis

Brad Angle*, G. S. Tint, Oraib A. Yacoub, Ann L. Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Smith-Lemli-Opitz (SLO) syndrome is an autosomal recessive disorder comprised of recognizable facial abnormalities, growth retardation, and multiple congenital anomalies, commonly involving genitalia, second and third toe syndactyly, and cleft palate. The condition is associated with hypocholesterolemia and elevated levels of 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) resulting from deficient activity of the enzyme 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase. The clinical spectrum of SLO ranges from individuals with mental retardation and minor anomalies to those with major structural defects and early or even prenatal lethality. Low maternal serum unconjugated estriol (uE3) levels and a variety of fetal ultrasound anomalies have been identified in affected pregnancies, and prenatal diagnosis is possible by measurement of amniotic fluid 7DHC levels in pregnancies known to be at risk because of a previously affected child. We report on a pregnancy with low maternal uE3 level, abnormal antenatal ultrasound findings including limb deformities, ventriculomegaly, and hydrops fetalis, and a normal 46,XY karyotype. The infant died at birth. At autopsy the infant had hydrops, unusual face, cleft palate, genital abnormalities, Dandy-Walker malformation, and absence of toe syndactyly. Tests performed on cultured skin fibroblasts showed elevated levels of 7DHC and abnormalities of cholesterol biosynthesis characteristic of the metabolic defect that causes SLO. The atypical findings of hydrops, uncharacteristic facial appearance, and absence of toe syndactyly in this case additionally illustrates the wide phenotypic spectrum of SLO and the need for a high index of suspicion for a disorder with great clinical variability. Identification of another affected pregnancy with a low maternal uE3 level and abnormal fetal ultrasound findings in the presence of a normal karyotype lends additional support for consideration of prenatal biochemical testing for SLO in pregnancies with these findings, including pregnancies not previously known to be at risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-326
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998


  • 7-dehydrocholesterol
  • Cholesterol metabolism
  • Dysmorphic features
  • Hydrops
  • Prenatal diagnosis
  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz
  • Unconjugated estriol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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