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WE Rainey, BR Carr, ZN Wang, and Parker CR Jr

The mechanisms that lead to the steroidogenic differences in the human fetal adrenal (HFA) and adult adrenal gland are not known. However, gene expression clearly plays a critical role in defining their distinct steroidogenic and structural phenotypes. We used DNA microarrays to compare expression levels of several thousand transcripts between the HFA and adult adrenal gland. Total RNA was isolated from 18 HFA and 12 adult adrenal glands. Samples of total RNA were used to make five pools of poly A+ RNA (mRNA). Gene profiling was done using five independent microarrays that contained between 7075 and 9182 cDNA elements. Sixty-nine transcripts were found to have a greater than 2.5-fold difference in expression between HFA and adult adrenals. The largest differences were observed for transcripts that encode IGF-II (25-fold higher in HFA) and 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (24-fold higher in adult). Among the other genes, transcripts related to sterol biosynthesis or to growth and development were higher in the HFA than adult adrenals. Transcripts concerned with cellular immunity and signal transduction were preferentially expressed in the adult adrenal. The vast majority of the 69 transcripts have not been studied with regard to adrenal function. Thus, these gene profiles provide valuable information that could help define the mechanisms that control adrenal function.

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R Sirianni, JB Seely, G Attia, DM Stocco, BR Carr, V Pezzi, and WE Rainey

In the current study we test the hypothesis that liver receptor homologue-1 (LRH; designated NR5A2) is involved in the regulation of steroid hormone production. The potential role of LRH was assessed by first examining expression in human steroidogenic tissues and second by examining effects on transcription of genes encoding enzymes involved in steroidogenesis. LRH is closely related to steroidogenic factor 1 (SF1; designated NR5A1), which is expressed in most steroidogenic tissues and regulates expression of several steroid-metabolizing enzymes. LRH transcripts were expressed at high levels in the human ovary and testis. Adrenal and placenta expressed much lower levels of LRH than either ovary or liver. To examine the effects of LRH on steroidogenic capacity we used reporter constructs prepared with the 5'-flanking region of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), cholesterol side-chain cleavage (CYP11A1), 3beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type II (HSD3B2), 17alpha hydroxylase, 17,20 lyase (CYP17), 11beta hydroxylase (CYP11B1) and aldosterone synthase (CYP11B2). Co-transfection of these reporter constructs with LRH expression vector demonstrated that like SF1, LRH enhanced reporter activity driven by flanking DNA from StAR, CYP11A1, CYP17, HSD3B2, and CYP11B1. Reporter constructs driven by CYP11A1 and CYP17 were increased the most by co-transfection with LRH and SF1. Of the promoters examined only HSD3B2 was more sensitive to LRH than SF1. The high level of ovarian and testicular LRH expression make it likely that LRH plays an important role in the regulation of gonadal function.