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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2006 Apr;99(1):50-8. Epub 2006 Mar 9.

Dehydroepiandrosterone and its metabolites: differential effects on androgen receptor trafficking and transcriptional activity.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015, United States.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a multi-functional steroid that has been implicated in a broad range of biological effects in humans and rodents. Recent studies demonstrated that DHEA acts genomically through the androgen receptor (AR) in addition to its well-known effects on cell surface receptors. However, the relative contribution of DHEA and its major metabolites, including DHEA-Sulfate (DHEA-S), 7alpha-OH-DHEA, 7beta-OH-DHEA, 7-oxo-DHEA, androstenedione (Adione), and androstenediol (Adiol), in the production of genomic effects remains controversial, in part because the metabolism of DHEA varies in different cells and tissues. In the current study, the ability of DHEA and its metabolites to promote AR intracellular trafficking and regulate AR-mediated reporter gene expression, which are characteristic effects of androgens, was determined. Intracellular trafficking of AR-GFP protein was assessed in COS-7 cells while AR transcriptional activity was tested in CV-1 cells transiently co-transfected with AR expression plasmid and an MMTV-ARE-CAT reporter. The results demonstrated that DHEA, the 3beta-HSD metabolite Adione, and the 17beta-HSD metabolite Adiol, were androgenic. Each promoted AR-GFP intracellular trafficking, the formation of nuclear clusters, and AR-dependent transcriptional activity in a dose-dependent manner. In contrast, DHEA-S, 7alpha-OH-DHEA, 7beta-OH-DHEA, and 7-oxo-DHEA were ineffective and exhibited minimal androgenic activity, even at relatively high concentrations (10(-6) M). These results provide the first systematic comparison of the (i) androgenic activity of DHEA and its sulfated and hydroxylated metabolites, (ii) relative androgenicity of DHEA itself vs. the established androgens Adione and Adiol, and (iii) ability of DHEA and its major metabolites to promote AR-GFP intracellular trafficking. In addition to partitioning DHEA and its metabolites into compounds with (DHEA, Adione, Adiol) and without (DHEA-S, 7alpha-OH-DHEA, 7beta-OH-DHEA, and 7-oxo-DHEA) androgenic activity, the findings improve our understanding of the intracellular processes mediating the genomic effects of DHEA through AR.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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