Studies of MA-10 Leydig cells have shown that intact mitochondria with active respiration are essential for LH-induced Leydig cell steroidogenesis. To further elucidate the role played by mitochondria in steroidogenesis, we examined the effects of the perturbation of the mitochondrial electron transport chain with myxothiazol (MYX) on testosterone production by primary cultures of Brown Norway rat Leydig cells. Analysis of the steroidogenic pathway revealed that cAMP production and the activities of each of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, 17α-hydroxylase/C17-20 lyase, and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase were inhibited by MYX and that LH-stimulated testosterone production was suppressed. In contrast to the inhibition of LH-stimulated testosterone production by MYX, the incubation of Leydig cells with MYXin the absence of LH stimulated testosterone production. Although testosterone production was increased, steroidogenic acute regulatory protein was decreased in response to MYX, not increased as could be expected. Additional electron transport chain inhibitors had stimulatory effects on testosterone production that were similar to those of MYX, strongly suggesting that the effect of MYX on basal testosterone production is related to its effect on the mitochondrial electron transport chain. Finally, incubation of the cells with a combination of MYX and the calcium chelator 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy) ethane-N,N,N′, N′-tetracetic acid tetrakis acetoxymethyl ester suppressed MYX-mediated increased basal steroidogenesis but had no effect on hydroxycholesterol-mediated steroidogenesis. Taken together, these results indicate that inhibition of the mitochondrial electron transport chain can block LH-stimulated testosterone production through suppression of a number of steps of the steroidogenic pathway but also stimulates basal testosterone production through a calcium-mediated mechanism.
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