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Mol Endocrinol. 2005 Feb;19(2):540-54. Epub 2004 Oct 21.

Peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor-mediated action of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein on cholesterol entry into leydig cell mitochondria.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057, USA.


Hormone-induced steroid biosynthesis begins with the transfer of cholesterol from intracellular stores into mitochondria. Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) and peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor (PBR) have been implicated in this rate-determining step of steroidogenesis. MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells were treated with and without oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) antisense to PBR and StAR followed by treatment with saturating concentrations of human choriogonadotropin. Treatment with ODNs antisense but not missense for both proteins inhibited the respective protein expression and the ability of the cells to synthesize steroids in response to human choriogonadotropin. Treatment of the cells with either ODNs antisense to PBR or a transducible peptide antagonist to PBR resulted in inhibition of the accumulation of the mature mitochondrial 30-kDa StAR protein, suggesting that the presence of PBR is required for StAR import into mitochondria. Addition of in vitro transcribed/translated 37-kDa StAR or a fusion protein of Tom20 (translocase of outer membrane) and StAR (Tom/StAR) to mitochondria isolated from control cells increased pregnenolone formation. Mitochondria isolated from cells treated with ODNs antisense, but not missense, to PBR failed to form pregnenolone and respond to either StAR or Tom/StAR proteins. Reincorporation of in vitro transcribed/translated PBR, but not PBR missing the cholesterol-binding domain, into MA-10 mitochondria rescued the ability of the mitochondria to form steroids and the ability of the mitochondria to respond to StAR and Tom/StAR proteins. These data suggest that both StAR and PBR proteins are indispensable elements of the steroidogenic machinery and function in a coordinated manner to transfer cholesterol into mitochondria.

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