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ZN Wang, M Bassett, and WE Rainey

Liver receptor homologue-1 (LRH-1, designated NR5A2) is a mammalian homologue of Drosophila fushi tarazu factor (dFTZ-F1) and structurally belongs to the orphan nuclear receptor superfamily. LRH-1 can recognize the DNA sequence 5'-AAGGTCA-3', the canonical recognition motif for steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1). Herein, we hypothesized that LRH-1 might play a role in the regulation of human adrenal expression of steroidogenic enzymes. To test this hypothesis, LRH-1 expression in human adult and fetal adrenal glands was examined by RT-PCR analysis. The fetal and adult adrenal glands, as well as liver and pancreas, were observed to express LRH-1 mRNA using RT-PCR. The ability of LRH-1 to enhance transcription of the gene encoding human 11 beta- hydroxylase (hCYP11B1) was then examined using the H295R adrenal cell line. LRH-1 co-transfection with hCYP11B1 luciferase promoter constructs caused a 25-fold induction of luciferase activity. Furthermore, co-transfection of a hCYP11B1 reporter construct containing a mutation in the SF-1 binding cis-element abolished the stimulatory effect of both SF-1 and LRH-1. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) demonstrated that LRH-1 could bind to the SF-1 response element. Taken together, our data suggested that LRH-1 is expressed in the adrenal, and can substitute for SF-1 to enhance transcription of genes encoding certain of the steroid-metabolizing enzymes. A role for LRH-1 in the regulation of adrenal or gonadal steroid hormone production should be further studied.

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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.

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MH Bassett, Y Zhang, C Clyne, PC White, and WE Rainey

11beta-Hydroxylase (hCYP11B1) and aldosterone synthase (hCYP11B2) are closely related isozymes with distinct roles in cortisol and aldosterone production respectively. Aldosterone synthase catalyzes the final step in aldosterone biosynthesis and is expressed only in the zona glomerulosa of the normal adrenal. 11beta-Hydroxylase catalyzes the final reaction in the production of cortisol and is expressed at higher levels in the zona fasciculata. The mechanisms causing differential expression of these genes are not well defined. Herein, we demonstrate contrasting roles for the orphan receptor steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1) in the regulation of human (h) CYP11B1 and hCYP11B2. Human NCI-H295R (H295R) or mouse Y-1 cells were transiently transfected with luciferase reporter constructs containing 5'-flanking regions of hCYP11B1, hCYP11B2, human 17alpha-hydroxylase (hCYP17), human cholesterol side-chain cleavage (hCYP11A1) or mouse (m) cyp11b2 (mcyp11b2). Co-transfection of vectors encoding SF-1 increased expression of hCYP11B1, hCYP11A1 and hCYP17 constructs, but inhibited hCYP11B2 reporter activity. Murine, bovine and human SF-1 were unable to increase transcription of hCYP11B2 in H295R cells. Both hCYP11B2 and mcyp11b2 promoter constructs were inhibited similarly by human SF-1. In mouse Y-1 cells, reporter expression of hCYP11B2 and mcyp11b2 was very low compared with hCYP11B1 constructs, suggesting that this adrenal cell model may not be appropriate for studies of CYP11B2. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay demonstrated that SF-1 interacted with an element from both hCYP11B1 and hCYP11B2. However, mutation of this element, termed Ad4, did not prevent agonist stimulation of hCYP11B2 by angiotensin II or forskolin but blocked activity of hCYP11B1. In some, but not all, reports of genetic linkage analysis, a naturally occurring single nucleotide polymorphism within the Ad4 element of hCYP11B2 (-344C/T) has been associated with cardiovascular disease. Herein, we have demonstrated that this polymorphism influenced binding of SF-1 in electrophoretic mobility shift assays, with the C allele binding SF-1 more strongly than the T allele. However, when hCYP11B2 constructs containing these alleles were transfected into H295R cells, there was no difference in agonist-stimulated expression or the response of either reporter construct to co-expression with human SF-1. Taken together, these data suggest that SF-1 and the Ad4 element are not major regulators of adrenal hCYP11B2 gene expression. Thus far, hCYP11B2 is the first steroid hydroxylase gene which is not positively regulated by SF-1.