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R Sirianni, BR Carr, S Ando, and WE Rainey

A unique characteristic of the primate adrenal is the ability to produce 19-carbon steroids, often called the adrenal androgens. Although it is clear that the major human adrenal androgens, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S), are produced almost solely in the adrenal reticularis, the mechanisms regulating production are poorly understood. Herein, we tested the hypothesis that the Src family of tyrosine kinases are involved in the regulation of adrenal androgen production. The NCI-H295R human adrenal cell line and primary human adrenal cells in culture were used to study adrenal androgen production and expression of enzymes involved in steroidogenesis. To examine the role of Src tyrosine kinase, cells were treated with PP2, a specific Src inhibitor. Alternatively, adrenal cells were transfected with an expression vector containing a dominant-negative form of Src. PP2 treatment inhibited basal cortisol production while significantly increasing the production of DHEA and DHEA-S (together referred to as DHEA(S)) in both adrenal cell models. The effect of PP2 on steroidogenesis occurred along with a rapid induction of steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein synthesis as revealed by Western analysis. Treatment with PP2 also increased mRNA levels for StAR, and cholesterol side-chain cleavage (CYP11A) and 17alpha-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase (CYP17) enzymes. Treatment of adrenal cells with the cAMP agonist dibutyryladenosine cyclic monophosphate (dbcAMP), stimulated the production of cortisol and DHEA(S). However, treatment of adrenal cells with a combination of PP2 and dbcAMP enhanced the production of DHEA(S) while inhibiting cortisol production. During dbcAMP treatment PP2 was able to augment the expression of CYP17 and to inhibit the induction of 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD3B2) levels. Increasing the CYP17 to HSD3B2 ratio is likely to promote the use of steroid precursors for the production of DHEA(S) and not for cortisol. Taken together these data suggest that the inhibition of Src tyrosine kinases causes adrenal cells to adopt a reticularis phenotype both by the production of DHEA(S) and by the steroidogenic enzymes expressed.

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R Sirianni, BR Carr, V Pezzi, and WE Rainey

Adrenal aldosterone synthesis is influenced by a variety of factors. The major physiological regulators of aldosterone production are angiotensin II (Ang IotaIota) and potassium (K(+)). Ang IotaIota stimulates aldosterone production through the activation of multiple intracellular signaling pathways. It has recently been demonstrated that Ang IotaIota activates src tyrosine kinases in vascular smooth muscle cells. The src family of tyrosine kinases are widely distributed non-receptor kinases that influence several signal transduction pathways. In the present study we evaluated the effect of a selective src family inhibitor, PP2, on aldosterone production using a human adrenocortical carcinoma-derived (H295R) cell line. Treatments for 6 or 48 h with PP2 (0.3 microM-10 microM) inhibited basal, Ang IotaIota, K(+) and dibutyryladenosine cyclic monophosphate (dbcAMP) stimulation of aldosterone production in a concentration-dependent manner. PP2 did not affect cell viability at any of the concentrations tested. Moreover, time course studies using PP2 (10 microM) for 6, 12, 24, and 48 h revealed a time-dependent inhibition of aldosterone production. Inhibition by PP2 (0.3-10 microM) was also observed for the metabolism of 22R-hydroxycholesterol (22R-OHChol) to aldosterone in H295R cells. Since 22R-OHChol is a substrate for cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage enzyme (CYP11A) that does not require steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein for transport to the inner mitochondrial membrane, these results suggest that PP2 inhibition occurred beyond the rate-limiting step in aldosterone synthesis. Genistein, a non-specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor also blocked aldosterone production, but the inhibition was the result of a non-specific effect on 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3betaHSD). In contrast, PP2 did not appear to act as a direct inhibitor of 3betaHSD activity. To further investigate the site of PP2 action, we examined its effect on H295R cell metabolism of [(14)C]progesterone using thin layer chromatography. PP2 treatment for 48 h caused an increase in the conversion of progesterone to 17alpha-hydroxyprogesterone. To determine if this apparent increase in 17alpha-hydroxylase activity was due to increased transcript, we examined the effect of PP2 on CYP17 mRNA. PP2 treatment caused an increase in CYP17 mRNA without an effect on 3betaHSD mRNA levels. Inhibition of protein synthesis with cycloheximide increased basal levels of CYP17 mRNA levels and blocked the induction observed by PP2. This suggests that new protein synthesis is a necessary part of PP2 induction of CYP17. Taken together these data suggest that the src tyrosine kinase inhibitor, PP2, is a potent inhibitor of aldosterone production. One mechanism for the inhibition is through an induction of CYP17 mRNA and enzyme activity. Src tyrosine kinases, therefore, may be involved with the promotion of a glomerulosa phenotype through the inhibition of CYP17 expression.