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Open access

Himangshu S Bose, Alan M Rice, Brendan Marshall, Fadi Gebrail, David Kupshik and Elizabeth W Perry

Summary

Steroid hormones are essential for the survival of all mammals. In adrenal glands and gonads, cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage enzyme (SCC or CYP11A1), catalyzes conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone. We studied a patient with ambiguous genitalia by the absence of Müllerian ducts and the presence of an incompletely formed vagina, who had extremely high adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and reduced pregnenolone levels with enlarged adrenal glands. The testes revealed seminiferous tubules, stroma, rete testis with interstitial fibrosis and reduced number of germ cells. Electron microscopy showed that the patient’s testicular mitochondrial size was small with little SCC expression within the mitochondria. The mitochondria were not close to the mitochondria-associated ER membrane (MAM), and cells were filled with the microfilaments. Our result revealed that absence of pregnenolone is associated with organelle stress, leading to altered protein organization that likely created steric hindrance in testicular cells.

Learning points:

  • Testes revealed seminiferous tubules, stroma, rete testis with interstitial fibrosis and reduced number of germ cells;

  • Testicular mitochondrial size was small with little SCC expression within the mitochondria;

  • Absence of pregnenolone is associated with organelle stress.

Open access

Anil Piya, Jasmeet Kaur, Alan M Rice and Himangshu S Bose

Summary

Cholesterol transport into the mitochondria is required for synthesis of the first steroid, pregnenolone. Cholesterol is transported by the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR), which acts at the outer mitochondrial membrane prior to its import. Mutations in the STAR protein result in lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Although the STAR protein consists of seven exons, biochemical analysis in nonsteroidogenic COS-1 cells showed that the first two were not essential for pregnenolone synthesis. Here, we present a patient with ambiguous genitalia, salt-lossing crisis within two weeks after birth and low cortisol levels. Sequence analysis of the STAR, including the exon–intron boundaries, showed the complete deletion of exon 1 as well as more than 50 nucleotides upstream of STAR promoter. Mitochondrial protein import with the translated protein through synthesis cassette of the mutant STAR lacking exon 1 showed protein translation, but it is less likely to have synthesized without a promoter in our patient. Thus, a full-length STAR gene is necessary for physiological mitochondrial cholesterol transport in vivo.

Learning points:

  • STAR exon 1 deletion caused lipoid CAH.

  • Exon 1 substitution does not affect biochemical activity.

  • StAR promoter is responsible for gonadal development.

Open access

Jasmeet Kaur, Alan M Rice, Elizabeth O’Connor, Anil Piya, Bradley Buckler and Himangshu S Bose

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is caused by mutations in cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage enzyme (CYP11A1 and old name, SCC). Errors in cholesterol side chain cleavage by the mitochondrial resident CYP11A1 results in an inadequate amount of pregnenolone production. This study was performed to evaluate the cause of salt-losing crisis and possible adrenal failure in a pediatric patient whose mother had a history of two previous stillbirths and loss of another baby within a week of birth. CAH can appear in any population in any region of the world. The study was conducted at Memorial University Medical Center and Mercer University School of Medicine. The patient was admitted to Pediatric Endocrinology Clinic due to salt-losing crisis and possible adrenal failure. The patient had CAH, an autosomal recessive disease, due to a novel mutation in exon 5 of the CYP11A1 gene, which generated a truncated protein of 286 amino acids compared with wild-type protein that has 521 amino acids (W286X). Although unrelated, both parents are carriers. Mitochondrial protein import analysis of the mutant CYP11A1 in steroidogenic MA-10 cells showed that the protein is imported in a similar fashion as observed for the wild-type protein and was cleaved to a shorter fragment. However, mutant’s activity was 10% of that obtained for the wild-type protein in non-steroidogenic COS-1 cells. In a patient of Mexican descent, a homozygous CYP11A1 mutation caused CAH, suggesting that this disease is not geographically restricted even in a homogeneous population.

Learning points:

  • Novel mutation in CYP11A1 causes CAH;

  • This is a pure population from Central Mexico;

  • Novel mutation created early truncated protein.