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Endocrinology. 2009 Dec;150(12):5438-45. doi: 10.1210/en.2009-0752. Epub 2009 Oct 21.

The spontaneous Ala147Thr amino acid substitution within the translocator protein influences pregnenolone production in lymphomonocytes of healthy individuals.

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Department of Human Morphology and Applied Biology, University of Pisa, 4-56126 Pisa, Italy.


The de novo production of steroids and neurosteroids begins in mitochondria by the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone through cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage (CYP11A1) enzymatic activity. The C-terminal amino acid domain of the translocator protein (TSPO) has been demonstrated to bind cholesterol, thereby determining its mitochondrial translocation. The goal of the present study was to investigate the effect of the Ala147Thr single-nucleotide polymorphism localized in this TSPO region on pregnenolone production in healthy volunteers. Pregnenolone production was evaluated in a peripheral cell model, represented by circulating lymphomonocytes. First, CYP11A1 expression, both at mRNA and protein level, was demonstrated. Pregnenolone production varied among genotype groups. Comparison of pregnenolone mean values revealed that Thr147 homozygous or heterozygous individuals had significantly lower pregnenolone levels compared with Ala147 homozygous individuals. These findings suggested a dominant effect of the minor allelic variant Thr147 to produce this first metabolite of the steroidogenesis pathway. Interestingly, Ala147 homozygous individuals exhibited significant higher levels of circulating cholesterol-rich low-density lipoproteins with respect to heterozygous individuals. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that the Ala147Thr spontaneous amino acid substitution within TSPO is able to affect pregnenolone production; this should encourage further studies to investigate its potential role in polygenic dyslipidemias.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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