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Biol Reprod. 1995 Feb;52(2):217-25.

Regulation of expression of steroidogenic enzymes in Leydig cells.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109-0278, USA.


The Leydig cell of the testis is the only cell in the male that has the capacity to synthesize testosterone from cholesterol. Testosterone is critical during fetal development for male sexual differentiation, and postnatally for initiation and maintenance of spermatogenesis and the expression of the male secondary sex characteristics. The biosynthesis of testosterone requires the activities of four enzymes, cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450scc), 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/delta 5-delta 4 isomerase (3 beta HSD), 17 alpha-hydroxylase/C17-20 lyase (P450(17 alpha)), and 17-ketosteroid reductase. The expression of these enzymes appears to be regulated by different mechanisms. The recent isolation of the mouse cDNAs and structural genes that encode these enzymes has enabled us to begin to investigate the regulation of their expression at the molecular level. This review discusses the regulation by cAMP and steroids of three enzymes in Leydig cells, P450scc, P450(17 alpha), and 3 beta HSD, as well as characterization of the promoters of the mouse genes that encode P450scc and P450(17 alpha).

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