Abnormal secretion of steroids by the adrenals and gonads is one of the disturbances occurring in diabetics but the impact of diabetes on steroid formation in the nervous system has never been studied. However, it is well known that numerous actions of peripheral steroids on the nervous system require their conversion into neuroactive metabolites within the neural tissue. As this in situ steroid synthesis/metabolism is crucial for the control of several neurobiological functions, we investigated the effects of streptozotocin-induced diabetes on the gene expression and activity of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase in the spinal cord, a pivotal structure involved in sensorimotor and neurovegetative mechanisms. 3β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase is a key enzyme which participates to the biosynthesis of all classes of steroids by converting Δ5-3β-hydroxysteroids such as pregnenolone and dehydroepiandrosterone into Δ4-3-ketosteroids as progesterone and androstenedione, respectively. Reverse transcription coupled with quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction revealed that 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase gene was over-expressed in the spinal cord of streptozotocin-treated rats compared with controls. Pulse-chase experiments combined with high performance liquid chromatography and continuous flow detection of newly-synthesized steroids showed an increase of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity responsible for a hyper-production of progesterone in the spinal cord of diabetic rats. This up-regulation of progesterone biosynthesis was concomitant with a decrease of its transformation into tetrahydroprogesterone, a process which facilitated progesterone accumulation in the spinal cord of streptozotocin-treated rats. Since progesterone is a potent neuroprotective steroid, increase of its production appeared as an endogenous molecular and biochemical mechanism triggered by spinal nerve cells to cope with degenerative effects of streptozotocin-induced diabetes. Our results constitute the first direct evidence showing an impact of diabetes on steroid biosynthetic and metabolic pathways in the nervous system. The data open new perspectives for the modulation of deleterious effects of diabetes by neuroprotective steroids.
|Number of pages||9|
|Publication status||Published - 2005|
- Real-time PCR
- Spinal cord
- Steroids and the nervous system
ASJC Scopus subject areas