Markedly inhibited 7-dehydrocholesterol-Δ7-reductase activity in liver microsomes from Smith-Lemli-Opitz homozygotes

Sarah Shefer*, Gerald Salen, A. K. Batta, A. Honda, G. S. Tint, Mira Irons, Ellen R. Elias, Tai C. Chen, M. F. Holick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


We investigated the enzyme defect in late cholesterol biosynthesis in the Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, a recessively inherited developmental disorder characterized by facial dysmorphism, mental retardation, and multiple organ congenital anomalies. Reduced plasma and tissue cholesterol with increased 7- dehydrocholesterol concentrations are biochemical features diagnostic of the inherited enzyme defect. Using isotope incorporation assays, we measured the transformation of the precursors, [3α-3H]lathosterol and [1,23H]7- dehydrocholesterol into cholesterol by liver microsomes from seven controls and four Smith-Lemli-Opitz homozygous subjects. The introduction of the double bond in lathosterol at C-5[6] to farm 7-dehydrocholesterol that is catalyzed by lathosterol-5-dehydrogenase was equally rapid in controls and homozygotes liver microsomes (120±8 vs 100±7 pmol/mg protein per min, P = NS). In distinction, the reduction of the double bond at C-7 [8] in 7- dehydrocholesterol to yield cholesterol catalyzed by 7-dehydro- cholesterolΔ7-reductase was nine times greater in controls than homozygotes microsomes (365±23 vs 40±4 pmol/mg protein per rain, P < 0.0001). These results demonstrate that the pathway of lathosterol to cholesterol in human liver includes 7-dehydrocholesterol as a key intermediate. In Smith-Lemli- Opitz hemozygotes, the transformation of 7-dehydrocholesterol to cholesterol by hepatic microsomes was blocked although 7-dehydrocholesterol was produced abundantly from lathosterol. Thus, lathosterol 5-dehydrogenase is equally active which indicates that homozygotes liver microsomes are viable. Accordingly, microsomal 7-dehydrocholesterol-Δ7-reductase is inherited abnormally in Smith-Lemli-Opitz homozygotes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1779-1785
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • 7-dehydrocholesterol
  • Smith-Lemli- Opitz syndrome
  • abnormal cholesterol biosynthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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