Increasing cholesterol synthesis in 7-dehydrosterol reductase (DHCR7) deficient mouse models through gene transfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • X Matabosch
  • L Ying
  • M Serra
  • CA Wassif
  • FD Porter
  • G Watson


Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is caused by deficiency in the terminal step of cholesterol biosynthesis: the conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) to cholesterol (C), catalyzed by 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase (DHCR7). This disorder exhibits several phenotypic traits including dysmorphia and mental retardation with a broad range of severity. There are few proven treatment options. That most commonly used is a high cholesterol diet that seems to enhance the quality of life and improve behavioral characteristics of patients, although these positive effects are controversial. The goal of our study was to investigate the possibility of restoring DHCR7 activity by gene transfer. We constructed an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector containing the DHCR7 gene. After we infused this vector into affected mice, the introduced DHCR7 gene could be identified in liver, mRNA was expressed and a functional enzyme was produced. Evidence of functionality came from the ability to partially normalize the serum ratio of 7DHC/C in treated animals, apparently by increasing cholesterol production with concomitant decrease in 7DHC precursor. By 5 weeks after treatment the mean ratio (for 7 animals) had fallen to 0.05 while the ratio for untreated littermate controls had risen to 0.14. This provides proof of principle that gene transfer can ameliorate the genetic defect causing SLOS and provides a new experimental tool for studying the pathogenesis of this disease. If effective in humans, it might also offer a possible alternative to exogenous cholesterol therapy. However, it would not offer a complete cure for the disorder as many of the negative implications of defective synthesis are already established during prenatal development.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-9
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2010