Sterol ∆8-isomerase (SI) (EC, also known as emopamil binding protein or sigma receptor, catalyses the conversion of the 8-ene isomer into the 7-ene isomer in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway in mammals. Recently, mutations of SI have been found to be associated with Conradi–Hünermann syndrome in humans. To investigate the invitro and invivo modes of molecular regulation of SI and its role in cholesterol biosynthesis in mammals, we isolated a full-length cDNA encoding rat SI. The deduced amino-acid sequence of rat SI predicts a 230-residue protein (26737Da) with 87% and 80% amino-acid identity to mouse and human counterparts. The rat SI gene was mapped to chromosome 12q1.2 using fluorescence insitu hybridization (FISH). The biological function of the cloned rat SI cDNA was verified by overexpressing recombinant Myc–SI in Saccharomycescerevisiae. It showed a characteristic pattern of inhibition on exposure to trans-2-[4-(1,2-diphenylbuten-1-yl)phenoxy]-N,N-dimethylethylamine (tamoxifen; IC50 = 11.2µM) and 3β-[2-(diethylamino)ethoxy]androst-5-en-17-one (U18666A; IC50 = 4.2µM), two well known potent inhibitors of SI. Northern-blot analysis of 3-week-old rats compared with 2-year-old rats showed that SI mRNA expression in both age groups was restricted to liver, where a 70% reduction in mRNA levels was observed in 2-year-old rats. The FISH studies revealed ubiquitous expression of SI mRNA in rat hepatocytes. The invitro studies showed that the SI mRNA was highly suppressed by 25-hydroxycholesterol in H4IIE cells. Treatment of H4IIE cells grown in medium supplemented with fetal bovine serum with tamoxifen for 24h resulted in a dose-dependent induction of SI mRNA, with a concomitant suppression of sterol regulatory element binding protein-1 mRNA. Interestingly, this effect was not seen in emopamil-treated cells. The invivo experiments also indicate that both mRNA expression and enzymic activity of SI in liver were induced approx. 3-fold in rats fed 5% (w/w) cholestyramine plus 0.1% (w/w) lovastatin in normal chow for 2 weeks. With this newly cloned rat SI cDNA, it becomes possible to gain molecular understanding of previously unknown and tamoxifen-mediated gene regulation of SI that is involved in cholesterol metabolism, ischaemia and genetic diseases.

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Author notes

The nucleotide sequence data reported will appear in the GenBank® Nucleotide Sequence Database under the accession number AF071501.