Alterations in membrane caveolae and BK Ca channel activity in skin fibroblasts in Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome

Gongyi Ren, Robert F. Jacob, Yuri Kaulin, Paul DiMuzio, Yi Xie, R. Preston Mason, G. Stephen Tint, Robert D. Steiner, Jean Baptiste Roullet, Louise Merkens, Diana Whitaker-Menezes, Philippe G. Frank, Michael P. Lisanti, Robert H. Cox, Thomas N. Tulenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is an inherited disorder of cholesterol synthesis caused by mutations in DHCR7 which encodes the final enzyme in the cholesterol synthesis pathway. The immediate precursor to cholesterol synthesis, 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) accumulates in the plasma and cells of SLOS patients which has led to the idea that the accumulation of abnormal sterols and/or reduction in cholesterol underlies the phenotypic abnormalities of SLOS. We tested the hypothesis that 7-DHC accumulates in membrane caveolae where it disturbs caveolar bilayer structure-function. Membrane caveolae from skin fibroblasts obtained from SLOS patients were isolated and found to accumulate 7-DHC. In caveolar-like model membranes containing 7-DHC, subtle, but complex alterations in intermolecular packing, lipid order and membrane width were observed. In addition, the BK Ca K + channel, which co-migrates with caveolin-1 in a membrane fraction enriched with cholesterol, was impaired in SLOS cells as reflected by reduced single channel conductance and a 50mV rightward shift in the channel activation voltage. In addition, a marked decrease in BK Ca protein but not mRNA expression levels was seen suggesting post-translational alterations. Accompanying these changes was a reduction in caveolin-1 protein and mRNA levels, but membrane caveolar structure was not altered. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that 7-DHC accumulation in the caveolar membrane results in defective caveolar signaling. However, additional cellular alterations beyond mere changes associated with abnormal sterols in the membrane likely contribute to the pathogenesis of SLOS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-355
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • 7-dehydrocholesterol
  • Birth defects
  • Caveolin-1
  • Lipid rafts
  • Membrane structure/function
  • β-hydroxy-steroid-Δ -reductase (DHCR7)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology


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