The role of calcium in steroidogenesis in fetal zone cells of the human fetal adrenal gland

B. R. Carr, W. E. Rainey, J. I. Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The human fetal adrenal gland is composed primarily of fetal zone (FZ) cells, which have a high rate of steroidogenesis. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of calcium in the regulation of steroidogenesis by FZ cells. Dispersed FZ cells were incubated in Krebs-Ringers medium at 37 C for 3 h in the presence of ACTH, (Bu)2cAMP, or forskolin in addition to various drugs. The medium contents of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DS), cortisol (F), and cAMP were quantified by RIA. After the addition of ACTH (1O−1O−10−5 M), DS and cAMP secretion increased. The addition of EGTA to the medium inhibited ACTH- and forskolin-stimulated DS, F, and cAMP secretion by 50% as well as (Bu)2cAMP-stimulated steroidogenesis. The addition of calcium (10−5−10−2 M) had only a slight effect on the secretion of DS or F in the absence of ACTH or (Bu)2cAMP. In the presence of ACTH and (Bu)2cAMP, however, increasing amounts of calcium resulted in a 2- to 3- fold increase in the rates of DS and F secretion. The addition of either A23187, a calcium ionophore, or verapamil, a calcium channel blocker, inhibited ACTH-stimulated DS and F secretion by 90%. The rate of cAMP formation was greater after ACTH plus verapamil treatment than after ACTH treatment alone, whereas A23187 inhibited ACTH-stimulated cAMP secretion to basal levels. Both A23187 and verapamil inhibited ACTH- and cAMP-stimulated pregnenolone secretion. The metabolism of 22R-hydroxycholesterol to pregnenolone was inhibited by A23187 and verapamil. In conclusion, our results suggest that extracellular calcium is important for activation of the human adrenal FZ cell adenylate cyclase system, while intracellular calcium plays a multifaceted role in controlling steroid production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-917
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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