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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e22822. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022822. Epub 2011 Aug 1.

Hormone-dependent expression of a steroidogenic acute regulatory protein natural antisense transcript in MA-10 mouse tumor Leydig cells.

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  • 1Department of Human Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Instituto de Investigaciones Moleculares de Enfermedades Hormonales Neurodegenerativas y Oncológicas, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Cholesterol transport is essential for many physiological processes, including steroidogenesis. In steroidogenic cells hormone-induced cholesterol transport is controlled by a protein complex that includes steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR). Star is expressed as 3.5-, 2.8-, and 1.6-kb transcripts that differ only in their 3'-untranslated regions. Because these transcripts share the same promoter, mRNA stability may be involved in their differential regulation and expression. Recently, the identification of natural antisense transcripts (NATs) has added another level of regulation to eukaryotic gene expression. Here we identified a new NAT that is complementary to the spliced Star mRNA sequence. Using 5' and 3' RACE, strand-specific RT-PCR, and ribonuclease protection assays, we demonstrated that Star NAT is expressed in MA-10 Leydig cells and steroidogenic murine tissues. Furthermore, we established that human chorionic gonadotropin stimulates Star NAT expression via cAMP. Our results show that sense-antisense Star RNAs may be coordinately regulated since they are co-expressed in MA-10 cells. Overexpression of Star NAT had a differential effect on the expression of the different Star sense transcripts following cAMP stimulation. Meanwhile, the levels of StAR protein and progesterone production were downregulated in the presence of Star NAT. Our data identify antisense transcription as an additional mechanism involved in the regulation of steroid biosynthesis.

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