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Endocrinology. 2010 Sep;151(9):4313-23. doi: 10.1210/en.2010-0044. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

RhoA and DIAPH1 mediate adrenocorticotropin-stimulated cortisol biosynthesis by regulating mitochondrial trafficking.

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Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0704, USA.


Steroid hormones are formed by the successive action of enzymes that are localized in mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Compartmentalization of these enzymes in different subcellular organelles dictates the need for efficient transfer of intermediary metabolites between the mitochondrion and ER; however, the molecular determinants that regulate interorganelle substrate exchange are unknown. The objective of this study was to define the molecular mechanism by which adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) signaling regulates communication between mitochondria and the ER during steroidogenesis. Using live cell video confocal microscopy, we found that ACTH and dibutyryl cAMP rapidly increased the rate of mitochondrial movement. Inhibiting tubulin polymerization prevented both basal and ACTH/cAMP-stimulated mitochondrial trafficking and decreased cortisol secretion. This decrease in cortisol secretion evoked by microtubule inhibition was paralleled by an increase in dehydroepiandrosterone production. In contrast, treatment with paclitaxel to stabilize microtubules or latrunculin B to inhibit actin polymerization and disrupt microfilament organization increased both mitochondrial trafficking and cortisol biosynthesis. ACTH-stimulated mitochondrial movement was dependent on RhoA and the RhoA effector, diaphanous-related homolog 1 (DIAPH1). ACTH signaling temporally increased the cellular concentrations of GTP-bound and Ser-188 phosphorylated RhoA, which promoted interaction with DIAPH1. Expression of a dominant-negative RhoA mutant or silencing DIAPH1 impaired mitochondrial trafficking and cortisol biosynthesis and concomitantly increased the secretion of adrenal androgens. We conclude that ACTH regulates cortisol production by facilitating interorganelle substrate transfer via a process that is mediated by RhoA and DIAPH1, which act to coordinate the dynamic trafficking of mitochondria.

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