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P450 Oxidoreductase Deficiency: A Disorder of Steroidogenesis with Multiple Clinical Manifestations

Cytochrome P450 enzymes catalyze the biosynthesis of steroid hormones and metabolize drugs. There are seven human type I P450 enzymes in mitochondria and 50 type II enzymes in endoplasmic reticulum. Type II enzymes, including both drug-metabolizing and some steroidogenic enzymes, require electron donation from a two-flavin protein, P450 oxidoreductase (POR). Although knockout of the POR gene causes embryonic lethality in mice, we discovered human POR deficiency as a disorder of steroidogenesis associated with the Antley-Bixler skeletal malformation syndrome and found mild POR mutations in phenotypically normal adults with infertility. Assay results of mutant forms of POR using the traditional but nonphysiologic assay (reduction of cytochrome c) did not correlate with patient phenotypes; assays based on the 17,20 lyase activity of P450c17 (CYP17) correlated with clinical phenotypes. The POR sequence in 842 normal individuals revealed many polymorphisms; amino acid sequence variant A503V is encoded by ~28% of human alleles. POR A503V has about 60% of wild-type activity in assays with CYP17, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4, but nearly wild-type activity with P450c21, CYP1A2, and CYP2C19. Activity of a particular POR variant with one P450 enzyme will not predict its activity with another P450 enzyme: Each POR-P450 combination must be studied individually. Human POR transcription, initiated from an untranslated exon, is regulated by Smad3/4, thyroid receptors, and the transcription factor AP-2. A promoter polymorphism reduces transcription to 60% in liver cells and to 35% in adrenal cells. POR deficiency is a newly described disorder of steroidogenesis, and POR variants may account for some genetic variation in drug metabolism.

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