Hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) catalyzes the hydrolysis of cholesteryl esters in steroidogenic tissues and, thus, facilitates cholesterol availability for steroidogenesis. The steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) controls the rate-limiting step in steroid biosynthesis. However, the modes of action of HSL in the regulation of StAR expression remain obscure. We demonstrate in MA-10 mouse Leydig cells that activation of the protein kinase A (PKA) pathway, by a cAMP analog Bt2cAMP, enhanced expression of HSL and its phosphorylation (P) at Ser-660 and Ser-563, but not at Ser-565, concomitant with increased HSL activity. Phosphorylation and activation of HSL coincided with increases in StAR, P-StAR (Ser-194), and progesterone levels. Inhibition of HSL activity by CAY10499 effectively suppressed Bt2cAMP-induced StAR expression and progesterone synthesis. Targeted silencing of endogenous HSL, with siRNAs, resulted in increased cholesteryl ester levels and decreased cholesterol content in MA-10 cells. Depletion of HSL affected lipoprotein-derived cellular cholesterol influx, diminished the supply of cholesterol to the mitochondria, and resulted in the repression of StAR and P-StAR levels. Cells overexpressing HSL increased the efficacy of liver X receptor (LXR) ligands on StAR expression and steroid synthesis, suggesting HSL-mediated steroidogenesis entails enhanced oxysterol production. Conversely, cells deficient in LXRs exhibited decreased HSL responsiveness. Furthermore, an increase in HSL was correlated with the LXR target genes, steroid receptor element-binding protein 1c and ATP binding cassette transporter A1, demonstrating HSL-dependent regulation of steroidogenesis predominantly involves LXR signaling. LXRs interact/cooperate with RXRs and result in the activation of StAR gene transcription. These findings provide novel insight and demonstrate the molecular events by which HSL acts to drive cAMP/PKA-mediated regulation of StAR expression and steroidogenesis in mouse Leydig cells.
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