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Teratology. 1996 Sep;54(3):115-25.

Inhibition of 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase by the teratogen AY9944: a rat model for Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome.

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Toxicology Department, Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort, Maisons-Alfort, France.


Our aim is to verify the validity of a rat model proposed for Smith-Lemli-Opitz (SLO) syndrome, a developmental disorder characterized by a defect in 7-dehydrocholesterol-delta 7 (7DHC)-reductase and by facial dysmorphism close to the holoprosencephaly caused by the teratogen AY9944. We investigated the sterol profile in rats treated with AY9944 blocking 7DHC-reductase. AY9944 was given orally to rats on gestation day 3 (D3). The sera were sampled for kinetic data on D3, D6, D9, D12, and D21. Cholesterol was measured in parallel by the routine enzymatic method and by the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC-MS) procedure used in SLO diagnosis. In addition to sterols, we dosed steroid hormones punctually on D4 and on D10, and examined D21 fetuses in other animals. The enzymatic method was not specific for cholesterol, and measured 70% pure 7DHC added to a normal serum. On D21, 77% live fetuses showed pituitary agenesis. Cholesterol was rapidly reduced by more than 50% on D6 involving an accumulation of 7DHC, 8DHC, and trienols, as identified in SLO-affected children. The most abundant 7DHC reached a maximum from D9 to D12, equaling cholesterol on D9 (11 mg/dl). On D10, the magnitudes of hypocholesterolemic and of 7DHC accumulation were found to be dose-dependent. Progesterone was reduced as early as 24 hr after treatment and dropped to 40% of the levels in the controls on D10, correlating to the decrease in cholesterolemia. This rat model reproduces the same biochemical perturbations as seen in SLO, strongly suggesting that aberrant sterols (7DHC, 8DHC, or nortrienol) may contribute to the developmental defects.

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