Stimulation of testosterone production in rat Leydig cells by aldosterone is mineralocorticoid receptor mediated

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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The testis is known to be a site of corticosterone action, and testosterone production in Leydig cells is directly inhibited by glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids bind to both glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) and to mineralocorticoid receptors (MRs). In Leydig cells, selective mineralocorticoid binding could result from oxidative inactivation of glucocorticoid by type 1 and/or 2 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11βHSD), as both isoforms are expressed. However, it remains unclear whether Leydig cells express MRs and respond directly to mineralocorticoid action. Therefore, the aims of the present study were to ascertain: (1) whether MR mRNA, protein and receptor binding are present in Leydig cells; and (2) if the mineralocorticoid modulates testosterone production. The mRNA encoding MR, as well as protein, and binding activity were each observed in adult rat Leydig cells. MR-ligand binding specificity within isolated Leydig cells was evaluated further by measuring displacement of MR binding to aldosterone by corticosterone in the presence and absence of carbenoxolone, an inhibitor of 11βHSD1 and 2 that decreases conversion to biologically inert 11-dehydrocorticosterone. Carbenoxolone inhibited 11βHSD oxidative activity, and reduced corticosterone-binding by 50%. Mineralocorticoid effects on steroidogenesis were assessed in the presence of aldosterone (0.01-10 nM) with or without the MR antagonist, RU28318. Aldosterone induced dose-dependent increases in both basal and luteinizing hormone-stimulated testosterone production. RU28318 eliminated the increase, indicating that these effects of aldosterone were mediated by the MR. The effects of aldosterone and luteinizing hormone (0.1 ng/ml) on testosterone production were synergistic, suggesting that the two hormones increased steroidogenesis through separate pathways. We conclude that Leydig cells express MRs and that testosterone production is subject to regulation by aldosterone.