Aromatase expression in prepuberal Sertoli cells: Effect of thyroid hormone

S. Andò, R. Sirianni, P. Forastieri, I. Casaburi, M. Lanzino, V. Rago, F. Giordano, C. Giordano, A. Carpino, V. Pezzi

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51 Scopus citations


Aromatase activity has recently been assumed as a Sertoli cell functional maturation marker since it is maximally expressed in prepuberal age then it dramatically decreases at puberty and is virtually absent in adult age. Neonatal hypothyroidism is associated with a prolonged proliferation of Sertoli cells. This immature stage persists concomitantly with a dramatic enhancement of aromatase activity reversed by triiodothyronine (T3) either in vivo or in vitro administration. Therefore, in the present study, after immunolocalisation of aromatase in the cytoplasm of cultured Sertoli cells as well as in testis section, we investigate the regulatory effects of T3 in the same cells just at the age when aromatase activity is reported to be maximally expressed. In this aim, the effects of thyroid hormone have been evaluated in 2-weeks-old rats, in basal condition and upon stimulation with dibutyryl cyclic AMP [(Bu)2cAMP] by simultaneously analysing three functional levels of aromatase, mRNA expression; protein content; enzymatic activity. Western-blot analysis of Sertoli cell extracts revealed a protein, which co-migrated with a 55 kDa protein detected in human placenta used a positive control. The presence of a functional P450 aromatase protein in purified Sertoli cells was confirmed by the measurement [3H]H2O released after incubation with [1β-3H]androst-4-3,17-dione. At the dose used, T3 down-regulates basal aromatase activity, while aromatase mRNA expression was apparently not inhibited. It is noteworthy that aromatase content pattern evaluated by Western blot analysis did not tightly parallel the aromatase activity pattern which clearly displays the inhibitory effects of T3, in basal condition ad upon (Bu)2cAMP stimulation, simulating FSH stimulation. The detection of mRNA altered transcript coding for putative protein lacking both aromatic and heme-binding regions upon T3 treatment and unable to convert androgens into estrogens, provides a reasonable explanation for the observed discrepancies between aromatase protein pattern, P450arom mRNA levels and aromatase activity. The authors conclude that although the altered transcript induced by prolonged exposure to T3 is a mechanism by which T3 may down regulate aromatase activity, it cannot be ruled out a direct effect of this hormone at the transcription levels since a recognisable emisite for potential TR(s) binding is located in the promoter region of aromatase gene. Thus a further investigation on T3 modulator role on aromatase gene promoter should be pursued even utilising higher doses of T3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 19 2001


  • Aromatase
  • Sertoli cells
  • Triiodothyronine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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