Inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 down-regulates aromatase activity and decreases proliferation of leydig tumor cells

Rosa Sirianni, Adele Chimento, Arianna De Luca, Fabiana Zolea, Amalia Carpino, Vittoria Rago, Marcello Maggiolini, Sebastiano Andò, Vincenzo Pezzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Our recent studies have revealed that estrogens stimulate an autocrine mechanism determining Leydig tumor cell proliferation. Estrogen overproduction is due to an elevated steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1) expression and cAMP-response element-binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation, both inducing aromatase overexpression. Although we have shown that increased SF-1 expression depends mainly on higher local insulin-like growth factor I production, the mechanisms and factors determining increased CREB activation in Leydig tumor cells are not completely understood. In this study, we investigated the role of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in CREB dependent- aromatase expression in Leydig tumor cells. We found that COX-2 is expressed in rat and human Leydigiomas as well as in the rat Leydig tumor cell line R2C, but not in normal testis. Our data indicate that in R2C cells the COX-2-derived prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) binds the PGE2 receptor EP4 and activates protein kinase A (PKA) and ultimately CREB. Inhibitors for COX-2 (NS398), EP4 (AH23848), and PKA (H89) decreased aromatase expression and activity as a consequence of a decreased phosphorylated CREB recruitment to the PII promoter of the aromatase gene. The COX-2/PGE2/PKA pathway also seems to be involved in aromatase post-translational activation, an observation that requires further studies. The reduction in aromatase activity was responsible for a drop in estrogen production and subsequent reduction in cyclin E expression resulting in a decrease in tumor Leydig cell proliferation. Furthermore, COX-2 silencing caused a significant decrease in CREB phosphorylation, aromatase expression, and R2C cell proliferation. These novel findings clarify the mechanisms involved in the growth of Leydig cell tumors and should be taken into account in determining new therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28905-28916
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 16 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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