3²-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity in glandular and extraglandular human fetal tissues

Leon Milewich, Cynthia E. Shaw, Kathleen M. Doody, William E. Rainey, J. Ian Mason, Bruce R. Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The expression of 3²-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3²HSD) in steroidogenic tissues is an absolute requirement for mammalian reproduction, fetal growth, and life maintenance. We sought to identify extraglandular tissue sites in the human fetus where 3²HSD is expressed. To this effect, we conducted in vitro studies by use of homogenates prepared from second trimester fetal tissues. To facilitate the determination of 3²HSD activity, an abbreviated technique was developed that consisted in the use of [3±-3H]dehydroepiandrosterone ([3±-3H] DHEA) as the substrate and NAD+ as the cofactor. With these reagents, the enzymatic reaction leads to the production of both nonradiolabeled androstenedione and NAD3H in equimolar amounts, and the radioactivity associated with NAD3H is used for quantification of 3²HSD activity. The kinetic isotope effect introduced by substitution of tritium for hydrogen at the C-3± position of DHEA, determined with six different tissues, was 2.5 ± 0.7 (mean ± sd). The specific activities of the enzyme in peripheral tissues and ovary were relatively low, in the range of 0.03 nmol/mg protein h for stomach (n = 2) to 0.18 ± 0.14 nmol/mg protein h for liver (mean ± sd; n = 13), while in fetal testis and placenta the specific activities were relatively high, viz. 3.4 ± 0.7 nmol/mg protein h (mean ± sd; n = 4) and 2.8 ± 1.8 nmol/mg protein h (mean ± sd; n = 13), respectively. The findings of this study serve to demonstrate that 3²HSD is distributed widely among tissues of the human fetus. Although the enzymatic activity was easily demonstrated in peripheral tissues by the use of radiolabeled DHEA as the substrate, 3²HSD protein was not readily detected by Western analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1134-1140
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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