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J Endocrinol. 1998 Mar;156(3):461-7.

Interleukin-1 inhibits Leydig cell steroidogenesis without affecting steroidogenic acute regulatory protein messenger ribonucleic acid or protein levels.

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  • 1Medical Service, WJB Dorn Veterans' Hospital, Columbia, South Carolina, USA.


The rate-limiting step of steroidogenesis is the transport of the substrate cholesterol from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membrane which involves a cycloheximide-sensitive newly synthesized protein. A protein believed to carry out this function was recently cloned from MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells and named the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR). In the present study, we evaluated the expression and regulation of StAR in primary cultures of rat Leydig cells. StAR mRNA was expressed in Leydig cells as two major transcripts of 3.8 and 1.7 kb and one minor transcript of 1.2 kb. Induction of StAR mRNA transcripts could be detected as early as 30 min after the addition of human choriogonadotropin (hCG) with peak levels attained between 2 and 4 h. hCG in concentrations of 0.1-10 ng/ml caused a dose-dependent increase in StAR mRNA expression. hCG administered at a dose of 10 ng/ml increased the 3.8 kb StAR mRNA level about 14-fold and the 1.7 kb StAR mRNA level about 13.6-fold. hCG-stimulated StAR mRNA was associated with increased StAR protein levels as determined by immunoblot analysis (a 4.5-fold increase). Murine interleukin-1 alpha (mIL-1 alpha) at a concentration of 100 ng/ml inhibited hCG-induced cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage (P450 scc) mRNA expression and testosterone formation almost completely. Interestingly, mIL-1 alpha had no effect on hCG-induced StAR mRNA or protein levels. Furthermore, mIL-1 alpha (10 ng/ml) decreased conversion of (22R)-hydroxycholesterol to testosterone while the conversion of pregnenolone, 17-hydroxypregnenolone, dehydroepiandrosterone and androstenedione to testosterone were not affected. These results indicate that the major inhibitory effect of IL-1 on Leydig cell function occurs at the level of P450 scc.

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