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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, Luis Casas and Himangshu S Bose

Summary

Lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia (lipoid CAH), the most severe form of CAH, is most commonly caused by mutations in steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR), which is required for the movement of cholesterol from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membranes to synthesize pregnenolone. This study was performed to evaluate whether the salt-losing crisis and the adrenal inactivity experienced by a Scandinavian infant is due to a de novo STAR mutation. The study was conducted at the University of North Dakota, the Mercer University School of Medicine and the Memorial University Medical Center to identify the cause of this disease. The patient was admitted to a pediatric endocrinologist at the Sanford Health Center for salt-losing crisis and possible adrenal failure. Lipoid CAH is an autosomal recessive disease, we identified two de novo heterozygous mutations (STAR c.444C>A (STAR p.N148K) and STAR c.557C>T (STAR p.R193X)) in the STAR gene, causing lipoid CAH. New onset lipoid CAH can occur through de novo mutations and is not restricted to any specific region of the world. This Scandinavian family was of Norwegian descent and had lipoid CAH due to a mutation in S TAR exons 4 and 5. Overexpression of the STAR p.N148K mutant in nonsteroidogenic COS-1 cells supplemented with an electron transport system showed activity similar to the background level, which was ∼10% of that observed with wild-type (WT) STAR. Protein-folding analysis showed that the finger printing of the STAR p.N148K mutant is also different from the WT protein. Inherited STAR mutations may be more prevalent in some geographical areas but not necessarily restricted to those regions.

Learning points

  • STAR mutations cause lipoid CAH.

  • This is a pure population from a caucasian family.

  • Mutation ablated STAR activity.

  • The mutation resulted in loosely folded conformation of STAR.