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    Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SLOS) results from mutations in the gene encoding the enzyme DHCR7, which catalyzes conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) to cholesterol (CHOL). Rats treated with a DHCR7 inhibitor serve as a SLOS animal model, and exhibit progressive photoreceptor-specific cell death, with accumulation of 7DHC and oxidized sterols. To understand the basis of this cell type specificity, we performed transcriptomic analyses on a photoreceptor-derived cell line (661W), treating cells with two 7DHC-derived oxysterols, which accumulate in tissues and bodily fluids of SLOS patients and in the rat SLOS model, as well as with CHOL (negative control), and evaluated differentially expressed genes (DEGs) for each treatment. Gene enrichment analysis and compilation of DEG sets indicated that endoplasmic reticulum stress, oxidative stress, DNA damage and repair, and autophagy were all highly up-regulated pathways in oxysterol-treated cells. Detailed analysis indicated that the two oxysterols exert their effects via different molecular mechanisms. Changes in expression of key genes in highlighted pathways (Hmox1, Ddit3, Trib3, and Herpud1) were validated by immunofluorescence confocal microscopy. The results extend our understanding of the pathobiology of retinal degeneration and SLOS, identifying potential new druggable targets for therapeutic intervention into these and other related orphan diseases.


    Bruce A Pfeffer, Libin Xu, Steven J Fliesler. Transcriptomic Changes Associated with Loss of Cell Viability Induced by Oxysterol Treatment of a Retinal Photoreceptor-Derived Cell Line: An In Vitro Model of Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome. International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Feb 26;22(5)

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    PMID: 33652836

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