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Mol Endocrinol. 1993 May;7(5):716-28.

Molecular basis of congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency.

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CHUL Research Center and Laval University, Québec, Canada.


Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is the most frequent cause of adrenal insufficiency and ambiguous genitalia in newborn children. In contrast to congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to 21-hydroxylase and 11 beta-hydroxylase deficiencies, which impair steroid formation in the adrenal cortex, exclusively, classical 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3 beta-HSD) deficiency affects steroid biosynthesis in the gonads as well as in the adrenals. The structures of the highly homologous type I and II 3 beta-HSD genes have been analyzed in three male pseudohermaphrodite 3 beta-HSD deficient patients from unrelated families in order to elucidate the molecular basis of classical 3 beta-HSD deficiency from patients exhibiting various degrees of severity of salt losing. The nucleotide sequence of DNA fragments generated by selective polymerase chain reaction amplification that span the four exons, the exon-intron boundaries, as well as the 5'-flanking region of each of the two 3 beta-HSD genes have been determined in the three male patients. The five point mutations characterized were all detected in the type II 3 beta-HSD gene, which is the gene predominantly expressed in the adrenals and gonads, while no mutation was detected in the type I 3 beta-HSD gene, predominantly expressed in the placenta and peripheral tissues. The two male patients suffering from severe salt-losing 3 beta-HSD deficiency are compound heterozygotes, one bearing the frame-shift mutation 186/insC/187 and the missense mutation Y253N, while the other bears the nonsense mutation W171X and the missense mutation E142K. The influence of the detected missense mutations on enzymatic activity was assessed by in vitro expression analysis of mutant recombinant enzymes generated by site-directed mutagenesis in heterologous mammalian cells. Recombinant mutant type II 3 beta-HSD enzymes carrying Y253N or E142K substitutions exhibit no detectable activity. On the other hand, the nonsalt-losing patient is homozygous for the missense mutation A245P. This mutation decreases 3 beta-HSD activity by approximately 90%. The present findings, describing the first missense mutations in the human type II 3 beta-HSD gene, provide unique information on the structure-activity relationships of the 3 beta-HSD superfamily. Moreover, the present findings provide a molecular explanation for the enzymatic heterogeneity responsible for the severe salt-losing form to the clinically inapparent salt-wasting form of classical 3 beta-HSD deficiency.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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