Recent Developments in Nematode Steroid Biochemistry


  • David J. Chitwood
  • Ruben Lozano
  • William R. Lusby


Current knowledge of steroid nutrition, metabolism, and function in free-living, plant-parasitic and animal-parasitic nematodes is reviewed, with emphasis upon recent investigation of Caenorhabditis elegans. A number of 4-desmethylsterols with a trans-A/B ring configuration can satisfy the steroid nutritional requirement in C. elegans, but sterols with a cis-A/B ring configuration or trans-A/B sterols with a 4-methyl group cannot. C. elegans removes methyl or ethyl substituents at C-24 of the plant sterols sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, stigmastanol, and 24-methylene-cholesterol to produce various sterols with structures partially dependent upon that of the dietary sterol. Additional metabolic steps in C. elegans include reduction of [delta] ²²- and [delta] [sup5]-bonds, C-7 dehydrogenation, isomerization of a [delta] [sup7]-bond to a [delta] [sup8][sup(] ¹[sup4][sup)]-bond, and 4[alpha]-methylation. An azasteroid and several long-chain alkyl amines interfere with the dealkylation pathway in C. elegans by inhibiting the [delta] ²[sup4]-sterol reductase; these compounds also inhibit growth and reproduction in various plant-parasitic and animal-parasitic nematodes. A possible hormonal role for various steroids identified in nematodes is discussed. Key words: biochemistry, Caenorhabditis elegans, ecdysteroid, hormone, steroid, sterol.