A small library of pharmacologically active compounds (the NIH Clinical Collection) was assayed in Neuro2a cells to determine their effect on the last step in the biosynthesis of cholesterol, the transformation of 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) to cholesterol promoted by 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase, DHCR7. Of some 727 compounds in the NIH Clinical Collection, over 30 compounds significantly increased 7-DHC in Neuro2a cells when assayed at 1 μM. Active compounds that increased 7-DHC with a Z-score of +3 or greater generally gave rise to modest decreases in desmosterol and increases in lanosterol levels. Among the most active compounds identified in the library were the antipsychotic, antidepressant, and anxiolytic compounds that included perospirone, nefazodone, haloperidol, aripiprazole, trazodone, and buspirone. Fluoxetine and risperidone were also active at 1 μM, and another 10 compounds in this class of pharmaceuticals were identified in the screen at concentrations of 10 μM. Increased levels of 7-DHC are associated with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS), a human condition that results from a mutation in the gene that encodes DHCR7. The SLOS phenotype includes neurological deficits and congenital malformations, and it is linked to a higher incidence of autism spectrum disorder. The significance of the current study is that it identifies common pharmacological compounds that may induce a biochemical presentation similar to SLOS. Little is known about the side effects of elevated 7-DHC postdevelopmentally, and the elevated 7-DHC that results from exposure to these compounds may also be a confounder in the diagnosis of SLOS.
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