Role of AMP-activated protein kinase on steroid hormone biosynthesis in adrenal NCI-H295R cells

Hirsch, Andrea; Hahn, Dagmar; Kempná, Petra; Hofer, Gaby; Mullis, Primus E; Nuoffer, Jean-Marc; Flück, Christa E (2012). Role of AMP-activated protein kinase on steroid hormone biosynthesis in adrenal NCI-H295R cells. PLoS ONE, 7(1), e30956. Lawrence, Kans.: Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0030956

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Regulation of human androgen biosynthesis is poorly understood. However, detailed knowledge is needed to eventually solve disorders with androgen dysbalance. We showed that starvation growth conditions shift steroidogenesis of human adrenal NCI-H295R cells towards androgen production attributable to decreased HSD3B2 expression and activity and increased CYP17A1 phosphorylation and 17,20-lyase activity. Generally, starvation induces stress and energy deprivation that need to be counteracted to maintain proper cell functions. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a master energy sensor that regulates cellular energy balance. AMPK regulates steroidogenesis in the gonad. Therefore, we investigated whether AMPK is also a regulator of adrenal steroidogenesis. We hypothesized that starvation uses AMPK signaling to enhance androgen production in NCI-H295R cells. We found that AMPK subunits are expressed in NCI-H295 cells, normal adrenal tissue and human as well as pig ovary cells. Starvation growth conditions decreased phosphorylation, but not activity of AMPK in NCI-H295 cells. In contrast, the AMPK activator 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide (AICAR) increased AMPKα phosphorylation and increased CYP17A1-17,20 lyase activity. Compound C (an AMPK inhibitor), directly inhibited CYP17A1 activities and can therefore not be used for AMPK signaling studies in steroidogenesis. HSD3B2 activity was neither altered by AICAR nor compound C. Starvation did not affect mitochondrial respiratory chain function in NCI-H295R cells suggesting that there is no indirect energy effect on AMPK through this avenue. In summary, starvation-mediated increase of androgen production in NCI-H295 cells does not seem to be mediated by AMPK signaling. But AMPK activation can enhance androgen production through a specific increase in CYP17A1-17,20 lyase activity.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Haematology, Oncology, Infectious Diseases, Laboratory Medicine and Hospital Pharmacy (DOLS) > Institute of Clinical Chemistry
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Endocrinology (DFKE) > Clinic of Paediatric Medicine

UniBE Contributor:

Hahn, Dagmar Karen; Kempna, Petra; Hofer, Gaby; Mullis, Primus-Eugen; Nuoffer, Jean-Marc and Flück, Christa




Public Library of Science




Anette van Dorland

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:22

Last Modified:

20 Jul 2022 10:02

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:




URI: (FactScience: 212924)

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