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J Neurochem. 2007 Mar;100(5):1329-39. Epub 2007 Jan 11.

Luteinizing hormone receptor mediates neuronal pregnenolone production via up-regulation of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein expression.

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1
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53705, USA.

Abstract

The functional consequences of luteinizing hormone/human chorionic gonadotropin signaling via neuronal luteinizing hormone/human chorionic gonadotropin receptors expressed throughout the brain remain unclear. A primary function of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the gonads is the stimulation of sex steroid production. As LH can cross the blood-brain barrier, present in cerebrospinal fluid and is expressed by neuronal cells, we tested whether LH might also modulate steroid synthesis in the brain. Treatment of differentiated rat primary hippocampal neurons and human M17 neuroblastoma cells with LH (100 mIU/mL) resulted in a twofold increase in pregnenolone secretion in both cell types, suggesting an increase in P450scc-mediated cleavage of cholesterol to pregnenolone and its secretion from neurons. To explore how LH might regulate the synthesis of pregnenolone, the precursor for steroid synthesis, we treated rat primary hippocampal neurons with LH (0, 10 and 100 mIU/mL) and measured changes in the expression of LH receptor and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR). LH induced a rapid (within 30 min) increase in the expression of StAR, but induced a dose-dependent decrease in LH receptor expression. Consistent with these results, the suppression of serum LH in young rats treated with leuprolide acetate for 4 months down-regulated StAR expression, but increased LH receptor expression in the brain. Taken together, these results indicate that LH induces neuronal pregnenolone production by modulating the expression of the LH receptor, increasing mitochondrial cholesterol transport and increasing P450scc-mediated cleavage of cholesterol for pregnenolone synthesis and secretion.

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