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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 1994 Sep;104(2):213-27.

Rat seminiferous tubular culture medium contains a biological factor that inhibits Leydig cell steroidogenesis: its purification and mechanism of action.

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  • 1Population Council, Center for Biomedical Research, New York, NY 10021.


Seminiferous tubules prepared from adult rats cultured for 48 h in serum-free conditions produce multiple biological factors that modulate Leydig cell steroidogenic function in vitro. Using gel filtration chromatography, it was shown that seminiferous tubular culture medium (STCM) contained at least three inhibitory activities designated AI, AII, and AIII that inhibited testosterone production by purified Leydig cells. The factor that induced AIII activity, designated Leydig cell inhibitor (LCI), was further purified to apparent homogeneity by sequential HPLC using gel permeation, C8-, C18-, C2/C18-reversed-phase, and microbore anion exchange columns. When this batch of purified factor was resolved by SDS-PAGE under reducing conditions, only a single silver stained band with an apparent M(r) of 21,000 was detected. Protein sequence analysis using about 100 pmol of purified LCI revealed that its N-terminus was blocked. Incubation of this highly purified factor with Percoll gradient purified Leydig cells induced a dose-dependent inhibition of hCG-stimulated testosterone production. LCI inhibited the basal testosterone production and hCG-stimulated cAMP production by Leydig cell dose-dependently. It also inhibited the forskolin- and cholera toxin-stimulated testosterone and cAMP production but had no apparent effect on the binding of 125I-labeled hCG to LH receptors. These data suggest that this LCI exerts its inhibitory action at steps beyond the LH receptors but prior to the cAMP formation by affecting the adenylate cyclase activity directly or indirectly through inhibition of the stimulatory G-protein (Gs-protein); however, it is also possible that it decreases the coupling of the receptors to the Gs-protein. LCI also inhibited the conversion of exogenously added 22R-hydroxycholesterol, pregnenolone, progesterone, and 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone to testosterone. However, it had no effect on the conversion of dehydroepiandrostenedione and androstenedione to testosterone. These data strongly suggest that LCI affects the steroidogenic enzymes metabolizing cholesterol to testosterone, the cytochrome P-450 side-chain cleavage (P-450SCC), and cytochrome P-450 17 alpha-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase (P-450C17). However, it has no effect on the 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3 beta-HSD) and 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17 beta-HSD) enzyme activities. Based on the results of the present study, it is apparent that this LCI is distinct from other known potent Leydig cells inhibitors such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). The LCI appears to involve in the paracrine regulation of Leydig cell function.

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