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Endocrinology. 1994 Oct;135(4):1470-6.

Survival of steroid 21-hydroxylase-deficient mice without endogenous corticosteroids after neonatal treatment and genetic rescue by transgenesis as a model system for treatment of congenital adrenal hyperplasia in humans.

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  • 1Department of Cell Genetics, Institute of Genetics, Shizuoka-ken, Japan.


The genome of mice with the H-2aw18 haplotype has a deletion of approximately 80 kilobases in the H-2 class III region of chromosome 17. Mice that are homozygous for the mutation die soon after birth. A functional form of steroid 21-hydroxylase (21-OHase) is encoded by the deleted DNA fragment, and H-2aw18 homozygotes are deficient in this enzyme. 21-OHase catalyzes the conversion of progesterone to deoxycorticosterone during adrenal steroidogenesis in mice; therefore, H-2aw18 homozygous mice are unable to synthesize corticosteroids. The deleted region also includes the gene for complement component C4, which has a role in the classical pathway of the complement activation cascade. To clarify the cause of the lethality of the mutation, we first administered either an adrenal homogenate or synthetic steroids to newborn mice; as a result, several H-2aw18 homozygotes were rescued. The results demonstrated that the mutant mice die as the result of a defect in adrenal steroidogenesis. The low efficiency of the rescue by treatment of newborns (16.0% by the adrenal homogenate and 14.8% by the synthetic steroids) suggested that mutant mice should be treated prenatally. Moreover, because the 21-OHase gene is expressed before birth, introduction of a gene for 21-OHase should improve the efficiency of rescue. The results of the murine mutation are similar to those of the inherited human disease known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which is caused by steroid 21-hydroxylase deficiency. As a model system for treatment of the human disease by genetic therapy, we used transgenic approaches to introduce a recombinant DNA fragment containing the murine genomic gene for 21-OHase into the mutant mice. We produced four lines of transgenic mice, and in all four transgenic lines, the transgene rescued the lethal mutation. The apparent efficiencies of rescue were 80.2%, 80.0%, 68.7%, and 16.7% for the respective lines of transgenic mice. During the course of our experiments, we also found an unexpected property associated with the role of corticosteroids. The H-2aw18 homozygous mice rescued by neonatal treatment survived for a long period without further treatment. This observation indicates that corticosteroids down-stream of 21-OHase in the pathway for adrenal steroidogenesis are not essential for the survival of mice, except during the period immediately after birth.

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