Endocrinology Journal Article

Role of Cholesterol in Male Sex Differentiation

July 12, 2021
 

Anbarasi Kothandapani, Colin R Jefcoate, Joan S Jorgensen
Endocrinology, Volume 162, Issue 7, July 2021, bqab066
https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqab066

Abstract

Two specialized functions of cholesterol during fetal development include serving as a precursor to androgen synthesis and supporting hedgehog (HH) signaling activity. Androgens are produced by the testes to facilitate masculinization of the fetus. Recent evidence shows that intricate interactions between the HH and androgen signaling pathways are required for optimal male sex differentiation and defects of either can cause birth anomalies indicative of 46,XY male variations of sex development (VSD). Further, perturbations in cholesterol synthesis can cause developmental defects, including VSD, that phenocopy those caused by disrupted androgen or HH signaling, highlighting the functional role of cholesterol in promoting male sex differentiation. In this review, we focus on the role of cholesterol in systemic androgen and local HH signaling events during fetal masculinization and their collective contributions to pediatric VSD.

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