Indexed on: 14 Feb '06Published on: 14 Feb '06Published in: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
The first and rate-limiting step in the biosynthesis of steroid hormones is the transfer of cholesterol into mitochondria, which is facilitated by the steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein. Recent studies of Leydig cell function have focused on the molecular events controlling steroidogenesis; however, few studies have examined the importance of the mitochondria. The purpose of this investigation was to determine which aspects of mitochondrial function are necessary for Leydig cell steroidogenesis. MA-10 tumor Leydig cells were treated with 8-bromo-cAMP (cAMP) and site-specific mitochondrial disrupters, pro-oxidants, and their effects on progesterone synthesis, StAR expression, mitochondrial membrane potential (delta psi(m)) and ATP synthesis were determined. Dissipating delta psi(m) with CCCP inhibited progesterone synthesis, even in the presence of newly synthesized StAR protein. The electron transport inhibitor antimycin A significantly reduced cellular ATP, inhibited steroidogenesis, and reduced StAR protein expression. The F0/F1 ATPase inhibitor oligomycin reduced cellular ATP and inhibited progesterone synthesis and StAR protein expression, but had no effect on delta psi(m). Disruption of pH with nigericin significantly reduced progesterone production and StAR protein, but had minimal effects on delta psi(m). Sodium arsenite at low concentrations inhibited StAR protein but not mRNA expression and inhibited progesterone without disrupting delta psi(m). The mitochondrial Ca2+ inhibitor Ru360 also inhibited StAR protein expression. These results demonstrate that delta psi(m), ATP synthesis, delta pH and [Ca2+]mt are all required for steroid biosynthesis, and that mitochondria are sensitive to oxidative stress. These results suggest that mitochondria must be energized, polarized, and actively respiring to support Leydig cell steroidogenesis and alterations in the state of mitochondria may be involved in regulating steroid biosynthesis.