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JP Hinson and PW Raven

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid secreted by the adrenal cortex, with a characteristic, age-related, pattern of secretion. The decline of DHEA concentrations with age has led to the suggestion that old age represents a DHEA deficiency syndrome and that the effects of ageing can be counteracted by DHEA 'replacement therapy'. DHEA is increasingly being used in the USA, outside medical supervision, for its supposed anti-ageing effects. This commentary weighs the evidence for the existence of a DHEA deficiency syndrome and considers the value of DHEA 'replacement therapy'.

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PW Raven, S Kapas, M Carroll and JP Hinson

Stimulation of aldosterone by a serine protease, trypsin, was first reported in 1982, although the mechanism of this effect was unclear. Recently, a family of protease-activated receptors (PARs) has been described and four members of the family characterised and cloned, including the previously recognised thrombin receptor. This study investigated whether PARs mediate the action of trypsin on aldosterone secretion. Using intact rat adrenal capsular tissue, thrombin was found to increase aldosterone secretion, and the effects of trypsin on aldosterone secretion were confirmed. Both trypsin and thrombin were shown to activate phospholipase C, as measured by an increase in inositol triphosphate turnover by adrenal capsular tissue. It was also shown that U73122, a phospholipase C inhibitor, attenuated the aldosterone response to trypsin. These effects were consistent with the activation of a PAR. Northern blot analysis revealed the presence of mRNA encoding PAR-1, but not PARs-2, -3 or -4 in the adrenal capsule/zona glomerulosa. Messenger RNA encoding PAR-1 was increased by dietary sodium depletion, consistent with previous reports of an increased response to trypsin after sodium depletion. These data suggest that the actions of trypsin on aldosterone secretion are mediated by PAR-1.