Gynecological endocrinology : the official journal of the International Society of Gynecological Endocrinology

Barbiturates inhibit progesterone synthesis in cultured Leydig tumor cells and human granulosa cells.

PMID 10599546


Screening drugs used in obstetrical practice for effects on steroid hormone synthesis revealed that phenobarbital inhibited progesterone synthesis in MA-10 Leydig tumor cells. The inhibition was apparently a drug class effect since it could be reproduced by other barbiturates. Barbiturate blockade was reversible and could be bypassed in the MA-10 cells by using 22-hydroxycholesterol. Human granulosa cell progesterone synthesis was also inhibited in a dose dependent fashion by phenobarbital, secobarbital and barbituric acid. Significant inhibition occurred in dose ranges that would be therapeutic for treating epilepsy. From these data we conclude that barbiturates block steroidogenesis by inhibiting cholesterol transport to the cholesterol side chain cleavage enzyme.