Maternal cariprazine exposure inhibits embryonic and postnatal brain cholesterol biosynthesis

Thiago C. Genaro-Mattos, Allison Anderson, Luke B. Allen, Keri A. Tallman, Ned A. Porter, Zeljka Korade, Károly Mirnics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cariprazine (CAR) is a strong inhibitor of the Dhcr7 enzyme, the last enzyme in the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway. We assessed the effects of CAR on maternally exposed Dhcr7+/− and wild-type mouse offspring, and tested the biochemical effects of CAR in human serum samples. Dhcr7+/− and wild-type time-pregnant mice were exposed to vehicle or 0.2 mg/kg CAR from E12 to E19. Levels of CAR, CAR metabolites, sterols, and oxysterols were measured in the brain of maternally exposed offspring at various time points using LC-MS/MS. Embryonic exposure to CAR significantly increased levels of 7-DHC in all organs of exposed embryos, with a particularly strong effect in the brain. Detectable levels of CAR and elevated 7-DHC were observed in the brain of newborn pups 14 days after drug exposure. In addition, CAR altered sterol metabolism in all animals analyzed, with the strongest effect on the brain of Dhcr7+/− pups born to Dhcr7+/− dams. Furthermore, CAR elevated toxic oxysterols in the brain of maternally exposed Dhcr7+/− offspring to levels approaching those seen in a mouse model of Smith–Lemli–Opitz syndrome. Finally, we observed that patients taking CAR have elevated 7-DHC in their serum. In summary, maternal DHCR7 heterozygosity, combined with offspring DHCR7 heterozygosity might represent a vulnerability factor to medications that interfere with sterol biosynthesis. Due to the conserved sterol biosynthesis between mice and humans, we suggest that the 1–3% of patient population with single-allele DHCR7 mutations might not be ideal candidates for CAR use, especially if they are nursing, pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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