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Endocrinology. 2013 Jan;154(1):511-20. doi: 10.1210/en.2012-1767. Epub 2012 Nov 26.

The calcium signaling pathway regulates leydig cell steroidogenesis through a transcriptional cascade involving the nuclear receptor NR4A1 and the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein.

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Reproduction, Mother and Youth Health, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec Research Centre, Centre Hospitalier del'Université Laval Room T1-49, 2705 Laurier Boulevard, Québec City, Québec, Canada G1V 4G2.


In the gonads and adrenal glands, the transient increase in steroidogenesis after hormonal stimulation requires modulation of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (Star) expression and activity in a tightly regulated process involving cAMP and Ca(2+). In Leydig cells, the cAMP and Ca(2+) pathways account for most if not all of LH-induced steroidogenesis. Although the cAMP-activated molecular network has been well characterized in Leydig cells, little is known about the molecular cascade triggered by the Ca(2+) signaling pathway and the transcription factors responsible for mediating the genomic response. It is established that LH induces an increase in cytoplasmic Ca(2+) from the endoplasmic reticulum primarily through the ryanodine receptors. Previous reports also suggested a role of the Ca(2+) signaling pathway in Star expression based on the fact that inhibition of the Ca(2+)/calmodulin (CaM) protein kinase pathway greatly impaired Star expression in Leydig and adrenal cells. In this study, we used ryanodine receptors and CaM antagonists to show that the increase in intracellular Ca(2+) level is an essential modulator of progesterone synthesis through the regulation of Star gene expression in MA-10 Leydig cells. Furthermore, we mapped a Ca(2+)/CaM-sensitive element in the Star promoter, which led to the identification of the nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1) as a key mediator of the Ca(2+)/CaM signaling pathway in these cells. These data provide new insights into the Ca(2+) molecular pathway essential for steroidogenesis in Leydig cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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