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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Dec 19;97(26):14488-93.

Haploinsufficiency of steroidogenic factor-1 in mice disrupts adrenal development leading to an impaired stress response.

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Department of Physiology, Graduate Programs in Biomedical Sciences and Developmental Biology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Adrenal steroids are essential for homeostasis and survival during severe physiological stress. Analysis of a patient heterozygous for the steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1) gene suggested that reduced expression of this nuclear receptor leads to adrenal failure. We therefore examined SF-1 heterozygous (+/-) mice as a potential model for delineating mechanisms underlying this disease. Here we show that SF-1 +/- mice exhibit adrenal insufficiency resulting from profound defects in adrenal development and organization. However, compensatory mechanisms, such as cellular hypertrophy and increased expression of the rate-limiting steroidogenic protein StAR, help to maintain adrenal function at near normal capacity under basal conditions. In contrast, adrenal deficits in SF-1 heterozygotes are revealed under stressful conditions, demonstrating that normal gene dosage of SF-1 is required for mounting an adequate stress response. Our findings predict that natural variations leading to reduced SF-1 function may underlie some forms of subclinical adrenal insufficiency, which become life threatening during traumatic stress.

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