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FM Rogerson, JG LeHoux, A Lefebre, and JI Mason

Complementary DNAs encoding the hamster type 2 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/delta 5-->4 isomerase were isolated from liver and kidney cDNA libraries. Nine clones were isolated containing identical coding and 3' untranslated sequences. However, six of the clones contained a 68-nucleotide stretch in the 5' untranslated region that was missing in the other three clones. Primers were designed to flank this region and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed on hamster liver and adrenal RNA. Two PCR products were amplified of the predicted molecular sizes and with the expected sequence. Primers were then designed to amplify sequences encompassing this region from hamster genomic DNA. Sequencing of the resultant PCR products demonstrated that the 68-nucleotide stretch missing in some transcripts corresponded exactly to the second of three exons identified. We conclude that the 5' untranslated region of this mRNA is transcribed from at least three exons, and that the sequence of the second of these exons is spliced out of some of the RNA transcripts.

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JL Thomas, JI Mason, G Blanco, and ML Veisaga

Human type I 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/isomerase (3beta-HSD/isomerase) is an integral membrane protein of human placental trophoblast and of insect Sf9 cells transfected with recombinant baculovirus containing the cDNA encoding the enzyme. Purified native or wild-type enzyme remains in solution only in the presence of detergent that may prevent crystallization. The membrane-spanning domain (residues 283-310) of the enzyme protein was deleted in the cDNA using PCR-based mutagenesis. The modified enzyme was expressed by baculovirus in the cytosol instead of in the microsomes and mitochondria of the Sf9 cells. The cytosolic form of 3beta-HSD/isomerase was purified using affinity chromatography with Cibacron Blue 1000. The NAD(+) and NaCl used to elute the enzyme were removed by size-exclusion centrifugation. Hydroxylapatite chromatography yielded a 26-fold purification of the enzyme. SDS-PAGE revealed a single protein band for the purified cytosolic enzyme (monomeric molecular mass 38.8 kDa) that migrated just below the wild-type enzyme (monomeric molecular mass 42.0 kDa). Michaelis-Menten constants measured for 3beta-HSD substrate (dehydroepiandrosterone) utilization by the purified cytosolic enzyme (K(m)=4.5 microM, V(max)=53 nmol/min per mg) and the pure wild-type enzyme (K(m)=3.7 microM, V(max)=43 nmol/min per mg), for isomerase substrate (5-androstene-3,17-dione) conversion by the purified cytosolic (K(m)=25 microM, V(max)=576 nmol/min per mg) and wild-type (K(m)=28 microM, V(max)=598 nmol/min per mg) enzymes, and for NAD(+) reduction by the 3beta-HSD activities of the cytosolic (K(m)=35 microM, V(max)=51 nmol/min per mg) and wild-type (K(m)=34 microM, V(max)=46 nmol/min per mg) enzymes are nearly identical. The isomerase activity of the cytosolic enzyme requires allosteric activation by NADH (K(m)=4.6 microM, V(max)=538 nmol/min per mg) just like the wild-type enzyme (K(m)=4.6 microM, V(max)=536 nmol/min per mg). Crystals of the purified, cytosolic enzyme protein have been obtained. The inability to crystallize the detergent-solubilized, wild-type microsomal enzyme has been overcome by engineering a cytosolic form of this protein. Determining the tertiary structure of 3beta-HSD/isomerase will clarify the mechanistic roles of potentially critical amino acids (His(261), Tyr(253)) that have been identified in the primary structure.

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FM Rogerson, J Courtemanche, A Fleury, Head JR, JG LeHoux, and JI Mason

Western blot analyses of various hamster tissues reveal high levels of expression of 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3 beta-HSD) in adrenal and liver, and moderate levels of expression in kidney. The expression in liver is sexually dimorphic; very high levels of protein are observed in adult male liver but very low levels are seen in the female liver. Three distinct cDNAs encoding isoforms of 3 beta-HSD were isolated from hamster cDNA libraries. The type 1 isoform is a high-affinity dehydrogenase/isomerase expressed in adrenal and male kidney. The type 2 isoform is also a high-affinity dehydrogenase/isomerase expressed in kidney and male liver. The type 3 enzyme is a 3-ketosteroid reductase expressed predominantly in kidney. Sequencing of the clones showed that all three are structurally very similar, although types 1 and 2 share the greatest degree of similarity. Immunohistochemical staining for 3 beta-HSD in the adrenal was found throughout the adrenal cortex. In the kidney staining was confined to tubules, and in the liver, heavy staining was found in hepatocytes. The cloning of cDNAs for 3 beta-HSD from the liver and kidney should help in elucidating the function of this enzyme in these tissues.

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JL Thomas, BW Evans, G Blanco, JI Mason, and RC Strickler

Human 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/steroid Delta(5)-Delta(4)-isomerase (3beta-HSD/isomerase) is a bifunctional, single enzyme protein that is membrane-bound in the endoplasmic reticulum (microsomes) and mitochondria of cells in the placenta (type I) and in the adrenals and gonads (type II). Two membrane-binding domains (residues 72-89 and 283-310) have been predicted by analyses of hydrophobicity in the type I and II isoenzymes (90% regional homology). These putative membrane domains were deleted in the cDNA by PCR-based mutagenesis, and the two mutant enzymes were expressed by baculovirus in insect Sf9 cells. Differential centrifugation of the Sf9 cell homogenate containing the 283-310 deletion mutant revealed that 94% of the 3beta-HSD and isomerase activities were in the cell cytosol, 6% of the activities were in the microsomes, and no activity was in the mitochondria. This is the opposite of the subcellular distribution of the wild-type enzyme with 94% of the activities in the microsomes and mitochondria and only 6% activity in the cytosol. The organelle distribution of the 72-89 deletion mutant lies between these two extremes with 72% of the enzyme activity in the cytosol and 28% in the microsomes/mitochondria. The integrity of the subcellular organelle preparations was confirmed by electron microscopy. Western immunoblots confirmed the presence of the 283-310 deletion mutant enzyme and the absence of the wild-type enzyme in the insect cell cytosol. The unpurified, cytosolic 383-310 deletion mutant exhibited 3beta-HSD (22 nmol/min per mg) and isomerase (33 nmol/min per mg) specific activities that were comparable with those of the membrane-bound, wild-type enzyme. The isomerase reaction of the cytosolic 283-311 deletion mutant requires activation by NADH just like the isomerase of the microsomal or mitochondrial wild-type enzyme. In contrast, the 72-89 deletion mutant had low 3beta-HSD and isomerase specific activities that were only 12% of the wild-type levels. This innovative study identifies the 283-310 region as the critical membrane domain of 3beta-HSD/isomerase that can be deleted without compromising enzyme function. The shorter 72-89 region is also a membrane domain, but deletion of this NH(2)-terminal region markedly diminishes the enzyme activities. Purification of the active, cytosolic 283-310 deletion mutant will produce a valuable tool for crystallographic studies that may ultimately determine the tertiary/quaternary structure of this key steroidogenic enzyme.

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MR Nicol, VJ Cobb, BC Williams, SD Morley, SW Walker, and JI Mason

Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) shows a wide tissue distribution and exerts numerous physiological actions. VIP was shown in a dose-dependent manner to increase cortisol secretion in the NCI-H295R human adrenocortical carcinoma (H295) cell line (threshold dose 3.3x10(-10) M, maximal dose 10(-7) M), coupled with a parallel increase in cAMP accumulation. Receptor-specific agonists were employed to determine which of the two known VIP receptor subtypes was involved in cortisol secretion. Treatment with the VPAC1 receptor agonist, [K(15), R(16), L(27)]VIP(1-7)/GRF(8-27), produced a dose-dependent increase in H295 cell cortisol secretion (threshold dose 10(-11) M, maximal dose 10(-7) M) similar to that seen with VIP. Meanwhile, the high-affinity VPAC2 receptor agonist, RO-25-1553, failed to stimulate significantly cortisol or cAMP production from H295 cells. Inhibition of VIP-mediated H295 cell cortisol secretion by PG97-269, a competitive VPAC1-specific antagonist, produced parallel shifts of the dose-response curve and a Schild regression slope of 0.99, indicating competitive inhibition at a single receptor subtype. VIP is known also to interact with the PAC1 receptor, albeit with lower affinity (EC(50) of approximately 200 nM) than the homologous ligand, PACAP (EC(50) of approximately 0.5 nM). PACAP stimulated cortisol secretion from H295 cells (EC(50) of 0.3 nM), suggesting the presence of functional PAC1 receptors. However, stimulation of cortisol secretion by nanomolar concentrations of VIP (EC(50) of 5 nM), coupled with real-time PCR estimation that VPAC1 receptor transcripts appear 1000-fold more abundant than PAC1 transcripts in H295 cells, makes it unlikely that VIP signals via PAC1 receptors. Together, these data suggest that VIP directly stimulates cortisol secretion from H295 cells via activation of the VPAC1 receptor subtype.

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R Ivell, G Tillmann, H Wang, M Nicol, PM Stewart, B Bartlick, N Walther, JI Mason, and SD Morley

Upregulation of the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) is implicated in the rapid synthesis and secretion of steroidogenic cells to produce steroids in response to stimulation by trophic hormones of the gonadal and stress axes. In the present study, we have assessed the kinetics of both StAR gene transcription and protein biosynthesis in primary cell cultures of bovine adrenocortical and ovarian theca cells, under conditions of acute stimulation by corticotrophin (ACTH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), respectively. In both cell systems, detectable upregulation of StAR gene transcription occurred within 1-2 h, reaching maxima at 4 h (theca cells) or 6 h (adrenocortical cells). mRNA levels returned rapidly to baseline, by 12 h or 24 h, respectively. Specific StAR protein levels were assessed by western blotting using a novel antibody raised against a bovine StAR peptide, and showed a similar fast upregulation, albeit delayed by 1-2 h compared with the mRNA. The response of the cultured theca cells was more acute than that of the adrenocortical cells, possibly reflecting the propensity of the LH receptor to desensitize rapidly, unlike the ACTH receptor. The primary bovine theca cell cultures were also used for fully homologous transfection studies using various deletion promoter-reporter constructs of the bovine StAR gene. Kinetic analysis of the results indicated that the acute transcriptional response resides within the proximal (-315 bp) promoter region, which includes two putative responsive elements for the steroidogenic factor-1. More distal promoter regions may be involved in modulating the specificity of expression by combining enhancer and inhibitory functions.

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S McCartin, AJ Russell, RA Fisher, AM Wallace, IJ Arnhold, JI Mason, J Varley, BB Mendonca, and RG Sutcliffe

Mutations in HSD3B2, the gene for 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type II (3beta-HSD II) have been detected and activities analysed through the in vitro expression of mutant cDNAs. Two full sibs with male pseudohermaphroditism were found to be double heterozygotes: N100S/266DeltaA. This genotype leads to the most profound loss of 3beta-HSD II enzyme activity (1.3% of normal) described to date in cases without severe salt-loss. One sib (N100S/266DeltaA) is the first reported male case of type II deficiency affected with premature adrenarche. Three apparently independent kindreds had propositi affected with the HSD3B2 mutation A82T/A82T, which is associated with a non salt-losing phenotype with variable expressivity in females. These three families had the same extended HSD3B haplotype and are likely to have inherited the same ancestral mutation. The significance of this finding is discussed in the light of the presence of A82T mutation at a homologous position in pseudogene varphi5 that is present in the HSD3B cluster.