Androgen 5-alpha-reductase type 2 is highly expressed and active in rat spinal cord motor neurones

P. Pozzi, C. Bendotti, S. Simeoni, F. Piccioni, V. Guerini, T. U. Marron, L. Martini, Angelo Poletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Spinal cord motoneurones express high levels of androgen receptor. However, in responsive tissue, the effects of testosterone is often mediated by the more potent androgenic derivative 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This compound is formed in androgen target cells by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. Two isoforms of the 5-alpha-reductase, with limited degree of homology, have been cloned, type 1 and type 2. The low affinity-constitutive type 1 isoenzyme is widely distributed in the body; the high affinity-androgen regulated 5-alpha-reductase type 2 is confined to androgen-dependent structures and shows a peculiar pH optimum at acidic values. We have previously shown that high levels of 5-alpha-reductase activity are detectable in rat spinal cord. Here, using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, we show that both isoforms are expressed in the whole spinal cord of the rat. The enzymatic pH optimum measured in immortalized spinal cord motoneurones (NSC34) is typical of the type 2 isoenzyme. Using in situ hybridization technique, we found that 5-alpha-reductase type 2 is confined to the motoneuronal cells of the anterior horns of the rat spinal cord, the cells that also are known to express high levels of androgen receptor. Because of the close association of androgen receptor and 5-alpha alpha-reductase type 2, motoneuronal cells should be considered as target cells for androgens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)882-887
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2003



  • 5-alpha-reductase
  • Androgen receptor
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Motor neurones
  • Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Neuroscience(all)

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