The Smith-Lemli-Opitz (SLO or RSH) syndrome is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by a recognizable pattern of minor facial anomalies, congenital anomalies of many organs, failure to thrive, and mental retardation. Its cause is a defect in cholesterol biosynthesis characterized by abnormally low plasma cholesterol levels and concentrations of the cholesterol precursor 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) elevated up to several thousand-fold above normal. We used capillary column gas-chromatography to quantify sterols in amniotic fluid, amniotic cells, plasma, placenta, and breast milk from a heterozygous mother who had previously given birth to an affected son and in cord blood and plasma from her affected newborn daughter. The cholesterol concentration in amniotic fluid at 16 weeks gestation was normal, but 7DHC, normally undetectable, was greatly elevated. In cultured amniocytes, the level of 7DHC was 11% of total cholesterol, similar to cultured fibroblasts from patients with SLO syndrome. At 38 weeks, a girl with phenotype consistent with the syndrome was born. Cholesterol concentrations were abnormally low in cord blood and in the baby's plasma at 12 weeks, while levels of 7DHC were grossly elevated, confirming the prenatal diagnosis. The mother's plasma cholesterol increased steadily during gestation but remained below the lower 95% limit reported for normal control women. We conclude that it is now possible to detect the SLO syndrome at 16 weeks gestation by analyzing amniotic fluid sterols.
- prenatal diagnosis
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