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Endocrinology. 2000 Apr;141(4):1446-54.

Effect of leptin on CYP17 enzymatic activities in human adrenal cells: new insight in the onset of adrenarche.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


CYP17 is a microsomal enzyme embodying two distinct activities, 17alpha-hydroxylase and 17,20-lyase, essential for the synthesis of cortisol and sex hormone precursors, respectively. The two activities are differentially regulated in a tissue and developmental stage-dependent fashion. Leptin might play a role in such differential control. Low dose leptin caused a significant increase in 17,20-lyase activity in adrenal NCI-H295R cells expressing leptin (OB) receptor (OB-R), without significant sustained influence on the 17alpha-hydroxylase activity. To analyze the time dependence of this leptin effect, the impact of long and short-term leptin treatment was studied. To assess the relationship with the OB-R signal transduction pathway, the same experiments were performed in intact cells and in a reconstituted system. The long- and short-term studies in intact cells and in microsomes suggest that the 17alpha-hydroxylase activity of CYP17 can be promptly stimulated by leptin, but that the effect is transient. In contrast, physiological doses of leptin steadily enhance 17,20-lyase activity. This influence is direct, OB-R specific and dependent on the integrity of the signal transduction pathway. The 17,20-lyase activity stimulation relies on phosphate incorporation, as demonstrated by the loss of leptin-dependent 17,20-lyase stimulation after phosphate removal, and by the fact that the DHEA production appears to be related exclusively to the presence of phosphorylated CYP17, independently from novel protein synthesis. The mechanism underlying the observed events seems to involve CYP17 phosphorylation, a feature of the OBR signal transduction pathway, and a process already shown to be crucial for 17,20-lyase activity.

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