Research NewsDevelopmental Biology

One-Eyed Animals Implicate Cholesterol in Development

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Science  05 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5369, pp. 1528-1529
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5369.1528

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Molecular biologists have worked out how certain toxins disrupt embryonic development in animals, leading to defects that include cyclopia--a single large eye, other deformities, and brain abnormalities. As one group reports on page 1603, the toxins make cells unable to respond to a critical developmental signal, perhaps because they interfere with the normal traffic of cholesterol within cells. The finding provides some of the first clear evidence that cholesterol, long known as a structural component of cell membranes and as the raw material that the body converts into steroid hormones and bile acids, can also influence the signaling paths that guide development.