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Endocrinology. 2006 Sep;147(9):4374-83. Epub 2006 Jun 1.

The mouse testis is the source of various serine proteases and serine proteinase inhibitors (SERPINs): Serine proteases and SERPINs identified in Leydig cells are under gonadotropin regulation.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Unité 418, Université Lyon 1, Hopital Debrousse, 69322 Lyon cedex 05, France.


The occurrence of various serine proteinases and serine proteinases inhibitors (SERPINs) was investigated by RT-PCR in whole testes of 1-, 3-, and 8-wk-old mice in crude and enriched germ cell fractions, mouse Leydig tumor cells (mLTC-1), and primary cultures of 3- and 8-wk-old enriched fractions of Leydig cells and 3-wk-old Sertoli cells. New members were identified in the testis protease repertoire. Within the Leydig repertoire, a PCR product was found for plasminogen activators urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) and tissue plasminogen activator (8-wk-old cells), matriptase-2 (mLTC-1), kallikrein-21, SERPINA5, SERPINB2 (primary cultures), and serine peptidase inhibitor Kunitz type 2 (SPINT2). The gonadotropin regulation was explored by semiquantitative RT-PCR, using steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) as a positive control. Matriptase-2, kallikrein-21, SPINT2, and SERPINA5 were down-regulated, whereas uPA and its receptor were up-regulated by human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) via cAMP in the mLTC-1 cells. Positive effects were observed transiently after 1-8 h of hCG exposure, and negative effects, first evidenced after 6 h, lasted 48 h. The hCG-induced effects were confirmed in primary cultures. In addition, SERPINB2 was augmented by hCG in primary cultures. Addition of either trypsin or protease inhibitors did not alter the hCG-induced surge of StAR. Because hCG regulated proteases and SERPINs (whereas testosterone did not), it could alter the proteolytic balance of Leydig cells and consequently the metabolism of extracellular matrix components. Therefore, even though a direct interplay between the early hCG-induced surge of uPA and StAR is unlikely, our data together with the literature suggest that extracellular matrix proteins alter Leydig cell steroidogenesis.

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