Journal article Open Access
Mitochondrial P450 type enzymes catalyze central steps in steroid biosynthesis, including cholesterol conversion to pregnenolone, 11beta and 18 hydroxylation in glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid synthesis, C-27 hydroxylation of bile acids, and 1alpha and 24 hydroxylation of 25-OH-vitamin D. These monooxygenase reactions depend on electron transfer from NADPH via FAD adrenodoxin reductase and 2Fe-2S adrenodoxin. These systems can function as a futile NADPH oxidase, oxidizing NADPH in absence of substrate, and leak electrons via adrenodoxin and P450 to O(2), producing superoxide and other reactive oxygen species (ROS). The degree of uncoupling depends on the P450 and steroid substrate. Studies with purified proteins and overexpression in cultured cells show consistently that adrenodoxin, but not reductase, is responsible for ROS production that can lead to apoptosis. In the ovary and corpus luteum, antioxidant enzyme activities superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase parallel steroidogenesis. Antioxidant beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, and ascorbate can protect against oxidative damages of P450 systems. In testis Leydig cells, steroidogenesis is associated with aging of the steroidogenic capacity.