Hair and skin sterols in normal mice and those with deficient dehydrosterol reductase (DHCR7), the enzyme associated with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome

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Our recent studies have focused on cholesterol synthesis in mouse models for 7-dehydrosterolreductase (DHCR7) deficiency, also known as Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. Investigations of such mutants have relied on tissue and blood levels of the cholesterol precursor 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) and its 8-dehydro isomer. In this investigation by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) we have identified and quantified cholesterol and its precursors (7DHC, desmosterol, lathosterol, lanosterol and cholest-7,24-dien-3β-ol) in mouse hair. The components were characterized and their concentrations were compared to those found in mouse skin and serum. Hair appeared unique in that desmosterol was a major sterol component, almost matching in concentration cholesterol itself. In DHCR7 deficient mice, dehydrodesmosterol (DHD) was the dominant hair Δ(7) sterol. Mutant mouse hair had much higher concentrations of 7-dehydrosterols relative to cholesterol than did serum or tissue at all ages studied. The 7DHC/C ratio in hair was typically about sevenfold the value in serum or skin and the DHD/D ratio was 100× that of the serum 7DHC/C ratio. Mutant mice compensate for their DHCR7 deficiency with maturity, and the tissue and blood 7DHC/C become close to normal. That hair retains high relative concentrations of the dehydro precursors suggests that the apparent up-regulation of Dhcr7 seen in liver is slower to develop at the site of hair cholesterol synthesis.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-25
Number of pages8
JournalThe Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2010


  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS), Cholesterol biosynthesis, Sterol GC/MS, DHCR7 deficiency, Hair sterols