Journal article Open Access
In the pathways of steroid hormone biosynthesis there are two major types of enzymes: cytochromes P450 and other steroid oxidoreductases. This review presents an overview of the function and expression of both types of enzymes with emphasis on steroidogenic P450s. The final part of the review on regulation of steroidogenesis includes a description of the normal physiological fluctuations in the steroid output of adrenal cortex and gonads, and provides an analysis of the relative role of enzyme levels in the determination of these fluctuations. The repertoire of enzymes expressed in a steroidogenic cell matches the cell's capacity for the biosynthesis of specific steroids. Thus, steroidogenic capacity is regulated mainly by tissue and cell specific expression of enzymes, and not by selective activation or inhibition of enzymes from a larger repertoire. The quantitative capacity of steroidogenic cells for the biosynthesis of specific steroids is determined by the levels of steroidogenic enzymes. The major physiological variations in enzyme levels, are generally associated with parallel changes in gene expression. The level of expression of each steroidogenic enzyme varies in three characteristics: (a) tissue- and cell-specific expression, determined during tissue and cell differentiation; (b) basal expression, in the absence of trophic hormonal stimulation; and (c) hormonal signal regulated expression. Each of these three types of expression probably represent the functioning of distinct gene regulatory elements. In adult steroidogenic tissues, the levels of most of the cell- and tissue-specific steroidogenic enzymes depend mainly on trophic hormonal stimulation mediated by a complex network of signal transduction systems.