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J Lipid Res. 2003 Aug;44(8):1515-22. Epub 2003 Jun 1.

On the substrate specificity of human CYP27A1: implications for bile acid and cholestanol formation.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, University of Uppsala, Box 578, S-751 23 Uppsala, Sweden.


The mitochondrial sterol 27-hydroxylase (CYP27A1) is required for degradation of the C27-sterol side chain in bile acid biosynthesis. CYP27A1 seems, however, to have roles beyond this, as illustrated by patients with a deficient sterol 27-hydroxylase due to mutations of the CYP27A1 gene [cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX)]. These subjects have symptoms ranging from accumulation of bile alcohols and cholestanol to accelerated atherosclerosis and progressive neurologic impairment. The present work describes a detailed investigation on the substrate specificity of recombinant human CYP27A1. In accordance with some previous work with rat liver mitochondria, the activity in general increased with the polarity of the substrate. An obvious example was the finding that cholesterol was 27-hydroxylated more efficiently than cholesterol oleate but less efficiently than cholesterol sulfate. The oxysterols 24S-hydroxycholesterol and 25-hydroxycholesterol were 27-hydroxylated less efficiently than cholesterol, possibly due to steric hindrance. Surprisingly, sterols with a 3-oxo-Delta4 structure were found to be hydroxylated at a much higher rate than the corresponding sterols with a 3beta-hydroxy-Delta5 structure. The rates of hydroxylation of the sterols were: 7alpha-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one>4-cholesten-3-one>7alpha-hydroxycholesterol>24-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one> cholesterol>25-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one>24-hydroxycholesterol>or=25-hydroxycholesterol. The possibility is discussed that the findings may have implications for oxysterol-mediated regulation of gene expression. The very high activity of CYP27A1 towards the cholestanol precursor 4-cholesten-3-one may be of importance in connection with the accumulation of cholestanol in patients with CTX.

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