Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is an autosomal recessive, multiple congenital anomaly syndrome with cognitive impairment and a distinct behavioral phenotype that includes autistic features. SLOS is caused by a defect in 3β-hydroxysterol Δ7-reductase which leads to decreased cholesterol levels and elevated cholesterol precursors, specifically 7- and 8-dehydrocholesterol. However, the pathological processes contributing to the neurological abnormalities in SLOS have not been defined. In view of prior data suggesting defects in SLOS in vesicular release and given the association of altered serotonin metabolism with autism, we were interested in measuring neurotransmitter metabolite levels in SLOS to assess their potential to be used as biomarkers in therapeutic trials. We measured cerebral spinal fluid levels of serotonin and dopamine metabolites, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5HIAA) and homovanillic acid (HVA) respectively, in 21 SLOS subjects. Results were correlated with the SLOS anatomical severity score, Aberrant Behavior Checklist scores and concurrent sterol biochemistry. Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) levels of both 5HIAA and HVA were significantly reduced in SLOS subjects. In individual patients, the levels of both 5HIAA and HVA were reduced to a similar degree. CSF neurotransmitter metabolite levels did not correlate with either CSF sterols or behavioral measures. This is the first study demonstrating decreased levels of CSF neurotransmitter metabolites in SLOS. We propose that decreased levels of neurotransmitters in SLOS are caused by a sterol-related defect in synaptic vesicle formation and that CSF 5HIAA and HVA will be useful biomarkers in development of future therapeutic trials.
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