Whether made by the body or ingested through diet, cholesterol plays a vital role in cells. Cholesterol also is a building block of steroids and hormones, including those that trigger puberty and support pregnancy. A new study implicates a surprising regulator of cholesterol in cells’ ability to make these hormones, especially in tissues associated with fertility, such as the ovaries.
The researchers who conducted the study, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said the findings have potential implications for investigating causes of infertility and understanding possible drivers of the trend toward earlier onset puberty, particularly in girls.
The study appears in the June issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.
“Disruptions in the pathway we identified may have real implications for fertility,” said senior author Daniel S. Ory, MD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine. “Too much of a key molecule we identified would likely impair proper steroid hormone production and lead to infertility. Conversely, too little of it could lead to premature sexual maturation.”
Featured article originally published in Washington University Newsroom: New clues in mice link cholesterol to fertility