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Hormone and metabolic research = Hormon- und Stoffwechselforschung = Hormones et metabolisme

Evidence for the biosynthesis of DHEA from cholesterol by first-trimester human placental tissue: source of androgens.


PMID 11972299

Abstract

With a view to establishing whether first-trimester human placentas possess the ability to synthesize DHEA from cholesterol, homogenates of this tissue obtained from two groups of women undergoing elective termination of normally progressing pregnancy between 10 - 12 weeks gestation (n = 5, age 23 - 29 years and n = 5, age 21 - 27 years) were incubated separately with [26-(14)C]cholesterol for the generation of [14C]isocaproic acid + pregnenolone and [7n-3H]pregnenolone for the biosynthesis of [3H]DHEA. Controls consisted of homogenates heated in a boiling water bath for 10 min. Using the reverse-isotope dilution analysis, desmolase efficiency expressed as mean specific activity of [14C]isocaproic acid varied from 282 to 725 dpm/mmol, while that of 17 alpha-hydroxylase and steroid C-17,20-lyase, catalyzed conversion of [7n-3H]pregnenolone to [3H]DHEA varied from 3498 to 26 258 dpm/mmol. The corresponding efficiencies of enzymicconversion varied between 5.8 x 10( -2) and 1.5 x 10( -1) % for [14C]isocaproic acid, but between 5.5 x 10( -2) and 4.1 x 10( -1) % for [3H]DHEA. No such metabolite was evident in the controls of heat-denatured homogenates. These are the first study results to demonstrate that early placentas are capable of converting cholesterol to pregnenolone to DHEA, contrary to the widely held concept of DHEA production by fetal and maternal adrenal glands. This finding has important physiological implications and could provide a new dimension to the concept of fetoplacental steroidogenesis.

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