Holoprosencephaly in RSH/Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome: does abnormal cholesterol metabolism affect the function of Sonic Hedgehog?

Am J Med Genet. 1996 Dec 30;66(4):478-84. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8628(19961230)66:4<478::AID-AJMG22>3.0.CO;2-Q.


The RSH/Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (RSH/SLOS) is an autosomal recessive malformation syndrome associated with increased levels of 7-dehydro-cholesterol (7-DHC) and a defect of cholesterol biosynthesis at the level of 3 beta-hydroxy-steroid-delta7-reductase (7-DHC reductase). Because rats exposed to inhibitors of 7-DHC reductase during development have a high frequency of holoprosencephaly (HPE) [Roux et al., 1979], we have undertaken a search for biochemical evidence of RSH/SLOS and other possible defects of sterol metabolism among patients with various forms of HPE. We describe 4 patients, one with semilobar HPE and three others with less complete forms of the HPE sequence, in whom we have made a biochemical diagnosis of RSH/SLOS. The clinical and biochemical spectrum of these and other patients with RSH/SLOS suggests a role of abnormal sterol metabolism in the pathogenesis of their malformations. The association of HPE and RSH/SLOS is discussed in light of the recent discoveries that mutations in the embryonic patterning gene, Sonic Hedgehog (SHH), can cause HPE in humans and that the sonic hedgehog protein product undergoes autoproteolysis to form a cholesterol-modified active product. These clinical, biochemical, and molecular studies suggest that HPE and other malformations in SLOS may be caused by incomplete or abnormal modification of the sonic hedgehog protein and, possible, other patterning proteins of the hedgehog class, a hypothesis testable in somatic cell systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Dehydrocholesterols / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Death
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Holoprosencephaly / complications
  • Holoprosencephaly / genetics
  • Holoprosencephaly / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome / genetics
  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome / pathology
  • Trans-Activators*


  • Dehydrocholesterols
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Proteins
  • SHH protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • Cholesterol
  • 7-dehydrocholesterol