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Int J Obes (Lond). 2007 May;31(5):864-70. Epub 2007 Jan 9.

Adipocyte-derived products induce the transcription of the StAR promoter and stimulate aldosterone and cortisol secretion from adrenocortical cells through the Wnt-signaling pathway.

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Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Rheumatology, University Hospital Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.



Obesity is associated with hypersecretion of cortisol and aldosterone and a high prevalence of arterial hypertension. At the cellular level, a direct effect of adipocytes on the expression of the steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein, a regulator of cortisol and aldosterone synthesis, and on aldosterone and cortisol secretion has been shown. However, the molecular mechanisms mediating this effect are not known.


Wnt-signaling molecules are secreted by adipocytes and regulate the activity of SF-1, a key transcription factor in adrenal steroidogenesis. Therefore, we investigated whether adipocytes stimulate adrenal steroidogenesis through the activation of Wnt-signaling.


Using immunohistochemistry, we detected the expression of frizzled and beta-catenin in the adult human adrenal cortex. Transient transfection of a Wnt-dependent reporter-gene into adrenal NCI-H295R cells showed an induction of Wnt-mediated transcription to 308% after treatment with human fat cell-conditioned medium (FCCM). This finding was paralleled by an induction of StAR promoter activity (420%) by FCCM. The induction of StAR promoter activity by FCCM was inhibited by 49% when Wnt-signaling was blocked by the soluble Wnt-antagonist secreted Frizzled-Related-Protein-1 (sFRP-1). Overexpression of a constitutively active mutant of beta-catenin induced the transcription of the StAR promoter (440%). beta-Catenin and FCCM induced SF-1-mediated transcription at a SF-1-driven reporter gene (420 and 402%, respectively). Furthermore, the secretion of aldosterone and cortisol by NCI-H295R cells induced by FCCM was significantly inhibited by the Wnt-antagonist sFRP-1.


These data indicate that the Wnt-signaling pathway is one of the mechanisms mediating the effects of fat cells on adrenal StAR transcription and aldosterone and cortisol secretion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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