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As neurons die, cholesterol is released in the central nervous system (CNS); hence, this sterol and its metabolites may represent a biomarker of neurodegeneration, including in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), in which altered cholesterol levels have been linked to prognosis. More than 40 different sterols were quantified in serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from ALS patients and healthy controls. In CSF, the concentration of cholesterol was found to be elevated in ALS samples. When CSF metabolite levels were normalized to cholesterol, the cholesterol metabolite 3β,7α-dihydroxycholest-5-en-26-oic acid, along with its precursor 3β-hydroxycholest-5-en-26-oic acid and product 7α-hydroxy-3-oxocholest-4-en-26-oic acid, were reduced in concentration, whereas metabolites known to be imported from the circulation into the CNS were not found to differ in concentration between groups. Analysis of serum revealed that (25R)26-hydroxycholesterol, the immediate precursor of 3β-hydroxycholest-5-en-26-oic acid, was reduced in concentration in ALS patients compared with controls. We conclude that the acidic branch of bile acid biosynthesis, known to be operative in-part in the brain, is defective in ALS, leading to a failure of the CNS to remove excess cholesterol, which may be toxic to neuronal cells, compounded by a reduction in neuroprotective 3β,7α-dihydroxycholest-5-en-26-oic acid.

Original publication




Journal article


J Lipid Res

Publication Date





267 - 278


bile acids and salts/biosynthesis, brain lipids, cholestenoic acids, cytochrome P450, mass spectrometry, neurodeneneration., nuclear receptors/LXR, oxysterols, Aged, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Bile Acids and Salts, Central Nervous System, Cholesterol, Female, Humans, Lipids, Male, Middle Aged, Nerve Degeneration, Neurons