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J Biol Chem. 2008 Oct 10;283(41):27525-33. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M803867200. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Cross-talk between G protein-coupled and epidermal growth factor receptors regulates gonadotropin-mediated steroidogenesis in Leydig cells.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390-8857, USA.


Gonadal steroid production is stimulated by gonadotropin binding to G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Although GPCR-mediated increases in intracellular cAMP are known regulators of steroidogenesis, the roles of other signaling pathways in mediating steroid production are not well characterized. Recent studies suggest that luteinizing hormone (LH) receptor activation leads to trans-activation of epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptors in the testes and ovary. This pathway is critical for LH-induced steroid production in ovarian follicles, probably through matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-mediated release of EGF receptor (EGFR) binding ectodomains. Here we examined LH and EGF receptor cross-talk in testicular steroidogenesis using mouse MLTC-1 Leydig cells. We demonstrated that, similar to the ovary, trans-activation of the EGF receptor was critical for gonadotropin-induced steroid production in Leydig cells. LH-induced increases in cAMP and cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) activity mediated trans-activation of the EGF receptor and subsequent mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation, ultimately leading to StAR phosphorylation and mitochondrial translocation. Steroidogenesis in Leydig cells was unaffected by MMP inhibitors, suggesting that cAMP and PKA trans-activated EGF receptors in an intracellular fashion. Interestingly, although cAMP was always needed for steroidogenesis, the EGFR/MAPK pathway was activated and necessary only for early (30-60 min), but not late (120 min or more), LH-induced steroidogenesis in vitro. In contrast, 36-h EGF receptor inhibition in vivo significantly reduced serum testosterone levels in male mice, demonstrating the physiologic importance of this cross-talk. These results suggest that GPCR-EGF receptor cross-talk is a conserved regulator of gonadotropin-induced steroidogenesis in the gonads, although the mechanisms of EGF receptor trans-activation may vary.

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