Human ovarian tumor cells: A potential model for thecal cell steroidogenesis

William E. Rainey, Chiravudh Sawetawan, John L. Mccarthy, Elizabeth A. Mcgee, Ian M. Bird, R. Ann Word, Bruce R. Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Ovarian thecal cell production of C19 steroids (i.e. dehydroepiandrosterone, androstenedione, and testosterone) is necessary to provide substrate for granulosa cell biosynthesis of estrogen; however, excessive production of C19 steroids can lead to disorders associated with androgen excess. Because of difficulties in obtaining adequate numbers of thecal cells, the biomolecular regulation of C19 steroid production and expression of steroidogenic enzymes is not well defined. We have overcome this obstacle by developing a highly dependable and unique human ovarian thecal-like tumor (HOTT) cell culture model system from an ovarian tumor found to produce excessive amounts of C19 steroids. Aliquots of freshly dispersed tumor cells were frozen for future use. Once placed in monolayer culture, HOTT cells proliferated and could be maintained for extended periods. Acutely, cultured HOTT cells increased progesterone and cAMP production in response to 2 h of forskolin treatment. These cells were, however, unresponsive to treatment with LH. Steroid hormone production continued in cells that were maintained in culture for up to 2 months. Analysis of the steroids produced by HOTT cells was accomplished using RIA and high performance liquid chromatography. Under basal conditions, HOTT cells produced mainly 17α-hydroxyprogesterone and progesterone. Treatment with forskolin or dibutyryl cAMP (dbcAMP) increased the production of progesterone and 17α-hydroxyprogesterone as well as C19 steroids. Treatment of monolayer cultures of HOTT cells with forskolin (0.01 to 20 μmo/L) or dbcAMP (0.01 to 1 mmol/L) for 48 h increased the production of androstenedione (8- to 15-fold) and progesterone (2- to 5-fold). In HOTT cells chronically treated with forskolin or dbcAMP (up to 72 h), progesterone production was observed to plateau, although the amount of androstenedione continued to increase. The enzymatic activities of both 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (6-fold), and 17α-hydroxylase P450 (P450c17; 9-fold) were also increased by activation of the protein kinase A messenger pathway. Treatment of HOTT cells with forskolin caused a time-dependent induction of the messenger RNAs for cholesterol side-chain cleavage P450, 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, and P450c17. No changes in steroidogenic enzyme expression were observed following treatment with LH. In conclusion, these data demonstrate that certain ovarian tumor cells may serve well as appropriate models to study the molecular mechanisms regulating human ovarian thecal cell C19 steroidogenesis and the expression of steroid-metabolizing enzymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-263
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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