Characterization of the dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) metabolism via oxysterol 7alpha-hydroxylase and 17-ketosteroid reductase activity in the human brain.

J Neurochem 2002 Nov;83(3):713-26

Department of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Bonn, Sigmund-Freud-Strasse 25, D-53105 Bonn, Germany.

Dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulphate are important factors for vitality, development and functions of the CNS. They were found to be subjects to a series of enzyme-mediated conversions within the rodent CNS. In the present study, we were able to demonstrate for the first time that membrane-associated dehydroepiandrosterone 7alpha-hydroxylase activity occurs within the human brain. The cytochrome P450 enzyme demonstrated a sharp pH optimum between 7.5 and 8.0 and a mean KM value of 5.4 micro m, corresponding with the presence of the oxysterol 7alpha-hydroxylase CYP7B1. Real-time RT-PCR analysis verified high levels of CYP7B1 mRNA expression in the human CNS. The additionally observed conversion of dehydroepiandrosterone via cytosolic 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity could be ascribed to the activity of an enzyme with a broad pH optimum and an undetectably high KM value. Subsequent experiments with cerebral neocortex and subcortical white matter specimens revealed that 7alpha-hydroxylase activity is significantly higher in the cerebral neocortex than in the subcortical white matter (p < 0.0005), whereas in the subcortical white matter, 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity is significantly higher than in the cerebral neocortex (p < 0.0005). No sex differences were observed. In conclusion, the high levels of CYP7B1 mRNA in brain tissue as well as in a variety of other tissues in combination with the ubiquitous presence of 7alpha-hydroxylase activity in the human temporal lobe led us to assume a neuroprotective function of the enzyme such as regulation of the immune response or counteracting the deleterious effects of neurotoxic glucocorticoids, rather than a distinct brain specific function such as neurostimulation or neuromodulation.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1471-4159.2002.01187.xDOI Listing
November 2002
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