Emerging evidence indicates that stress hormone glucocorticoids (GC) are an important modulator of brain development and function. To investigate whether GCs modulate neurosteroid biosynthesis in neural cells, we studied the effects of GCs on steroidogenic gene expression in human glioma GI-1 cells. The GC dexamethasone (Dex) reduced steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), CYP11A1 and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase gene expression in a dose- and GC receptor-dependent manner. In addition to its effects on steroidogenic gene expression, Dex also reduced de novo synthesis of progesterone (PROG). Furthermore, Dex inhibited all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) and vitamin D 3-induced steroidogenic gene expression and PROG production. This suggests that GC regulates steroidogenic gene expression in neural cells via cross-talk with the two fat-soluble vitamins, A and D. The relationship between the effects of GCs on neurosteroid biosynthesis and on cognitive behaviors and hippocampal neural activity is also discussed herein.
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