FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

What dictates the accumulation of desmosterol in the developing brain?

PMID 23230282


The brain is the most cholesterol-enriched tissue in the body. During brain development, desmosterol, an immediate precursor of cholesterol, transiently accumulates up to 30% of total brain sterols. This massive desmosterol deposition appears to be present in all mammalian species reported so far, including humans, but how it is achieved is not well understood. Here, we propose that desmosterol accumulation in the developing brain may be primarily caused by post-transcriptional repression of 3β-hydroxysterol 24-reductase (DHCR24) by progesterone. Furthermore, distinct properties of desmosterol may serve to increase the membrane active pool of sterols in the brain: desmosterol cannot be hydroxylated to generate 24S-hydroxycholesterol, a brain derived secretory sterol, desmosterol has a reduced propensity to be esterified as compared to cholesterol, and desmosterol may activate LXR to stimulate astrocyte sterol secretion. This regulated accumulation of desmosterol by progesterone-induced suppression of DHCR24 may facilitate the rapid enrichment and distribution of membrane sterols in the developing brain.

Related Materials