Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and urocortin act through type 1 CRH receptors to stimulate dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate production in human fetal adrenal cells

Rosa Sirianni, Bobbie A. Mayhew, Bruce R. Carr, C. Richard Parker, William E. Rainey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Scopus citations


Context: Near term, the human fetal adrenal increases the production of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). DHEAS, which acts as substrate for placental estrogen production, induces key changes involved in parturition. Objective: The objective of this study was to determine quantitatively the effect of CRH on mRNA levels of enzymes needed for DHEAS production (steroidogenic acute regulatory protein, CYP11A, CYP17, and SULT2A1), to determine the CRH receptor (CRH-R) subtype(s) responsible for CRH action, and to determine the effect of CRH on CRH-R mRNA expression in human adrenal fetal zone (FZ) cells. Design: Human adrenal FZ cells were treated with CRH, ACTH, urocortin (Unc), and CRH antagonists, and RNA was analyzed by microarray and real-time RT-PCR. Setting: This study was performed at an academic research laboratory. Main Outcome Measure: The main outcome measure was the expression of steroidogenic enzymes and CRH-R. Results: Microarray analysis of human FZ cells treated for 24 h with CRHor ACTH showed increased mRNA expression levels of the genes needed for DHEAS production. Real-time RT-PCR analysis confirmed these data. Induction was lost in the presence of CRH-R1 antagonists, but not CRH-R2 antagonists. Stimulation was reproduced by Unc. The CRH-R1α mRNA splice variant was the only type 1 receptor isoform expressed in the fetal adrenal, and treatment with CRH up-regulates its mRNA levels. Conclusions: CRH, Unc, and ACTH stimulate all elements of the DHEAS synthetic pathway and activate CRH-R1 as well. The resulting increased DHEAS levels can be used for placental estrogen synthesis and contribute to the process leading to parturition in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5393-5400
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical

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