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J Lipid Res. 2002 Jan;43(1):82-9.

Tissue-specific transcriptional regulation of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway leads to accumulation of testis meiosis-activating sterol (T-MAS).

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  • 1Institute of Biochemistry, Medical Center for Molecular Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia.


Lanosterol 14alpha-demethylase (CYP51) produces follicular fluid meiosis-activating sterol (FF-MAS), which is converted further to testis meiosis-activating sterol (T-MAS). MAS are intermediates in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway, with the ability to trigger resumption of oocyte meiosis in vitro. In contrast to the liver, where pre- and post-MAS genes are upregulated coordinately at the level of transcription by a cholesterol feedback mechanism through sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBP), regulation differs in the testis. Genes encoding pre-MAS enzymes [HMG-CoA synthase (SYN), HMG-CoA reductase (RED), farnesyl diphosphate synthase (FPP), squalene synthase (SS), and CYP51] are upregulated during sexual development of the testis, although not all genes are turned on at the same time. Furthermore, two post-MAS genes, C-4 sterol methyl oxidase and sterol Delta(7)-reductase, are expressed at low levels and are not upregulated either in rat or human. This transcriptional discrepancy seems to be SREBP independent. Besides cAMP/cAMP-responsive element modulator, other unknown transcription factors control expression of individual cholesterogenic genes during spermatogenesis. HPLC analysis shows an 8-fold increase in T-MAS during development of rat testis whereas MAS is barely detectable in livers of the same animals. We propose that the lack of a coordinate transcriptional control over the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway contributes importantly to overproduction of the signaling sterol T-MAS in testis.

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