Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is caused by a genetic deficiency in 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) reductase (EC 126.96.36.199), the last enzyme of the cholesterol synthetic pathway. In SLOS, plasma cholesterol concentration is reduced and immediate precursor concentration (7-DHC) is elevated. Surprisingly, total sterol synthesis is reduced but HMG-CoA reductase activity, a rate-limiting enzyme in cholesterol synthesis is unaltered as judged by normal urinary excretion of mevalonic acid (MVA) (Pappu et al. J Lipid Res 43:1661-1669, 2002). These findings raise the possibility of increased diversion of MVA into the MVA shunt pathway away from sterol synthesis, by activation of the shunt pathway enzymes. To test this hypothesis, we measured the urinary excretion of 3-methylglutaconic acid (U-3MGC), a by-product of the shunt pathway, in 19 mildly to moderately severely affected SLOS subjects (ten males, nine females) receiving either a cholesterol-free or a high cholesterol diet, and in 20 age-and sex-matched controls. U-3MGC was similar in SLOS and controls, and was unaffected by dietary cholesterol intake. Further, no change in U-3MGC was observed in a subset of SLOS subjects (n=9) receiving simvastatin. In contrast, U-MVA was reduced by cholesterol supplementation (∼54%, p<0.05) and by simvastatin (∼50%, p<0.04). There was no correlation between U-3MGC and either plasma sterol concentrations, urinary isoprenoids, or the subjects' clinical severity score. However U-3MGC was inversely correlated with age (p<0.04) and body weight (p<0.02), and higher in females than in males (∼65%, p<0.025). The data show that DHCR7 deficiency does not result in 3MGC accumulation in SLOS and suggest that the MVA shunt pathway is not activated in patients with the condition.
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