Indexed on: 30 Oct '98Published on: 30 Oct '98Published in: Endocrinology
3Beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/delta5-delta4 isomerases (3beta-HSD) are enzymes that catalyze the conversion of delta5 to delta4 steroids in the gonads and adrenal for the biosynthesis of sex steroid and corticoids. In gonadotropin-desensitized Leydig cells, from rats treated with high doses of human CG (hCG), testosterone production is markedly reduced, a finding that was attributed in part to reduction of CYP17 expression. In this study, we present evidence for an additional steroidogenic lesion induced by gonadotropin. Using differential display analysis of messenger RNA (mRNA) from Leydig cells of rats treated with a single desensitizing dose of hCG (2.5 microg), we found that transcripts for type I and type II 3beta-HSD were substantially (5- to 8-fold) down-regulated. This major reduction, confirmed by RNase protection assay, was observed at the high hCG dose (2.5 microg), whereas minor or no change was found at lower doses (0.01 and 0.1 microg). In contrast, 3beta-HSD mRNA transcripts were not changed in luteinized ovaries of pseudopregnant rats treated with 2.5 microg hCG. The down-regulation of 3beta-HSD mRNA in the Leydig cell resulted from changes at the transcriptional level. Western blot analysis showed 3beta-HSD protein was significantly reduced by hCG treatment, with changes that were coincidental with the reduction of enzyme activity and temporally consistent with the reduction of 3beta-HSD mRNA but independent of LH receptor down-regulation. The reduction of 3beta-HSD mRNA resulting from transcriptional inhibition of gene expression, and the consequent reduction of 3beta-HSD activity could contribute to the inhibition of androgen production in gonadotropin-induced steroidogenic desensitization of Leydig cells. The gender-specific regulation of 3beta-HSD by hCG reflects differential transcriptional regulation of the enzymes to accommodate physiological hormonal requirements and reproductive function.