Testosterone production study challenges 25-year-old scientific dogma

New research refutes the scientific community's long-held belief that the body needs a specific protein to produce steroid hormones like testosterone, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology.

Steroid hormones trigger changes in the body's cells that are crucial for a variety of life-sustaining functions, including reproduction and stress response. Researchers want to understand exactly how the body produces these hormones in order to develop better treatments for steroid hormone disorders such as hypogonadism and , conditions in which the testes/ovaries and adrenal glands produce insufficient , respectively.

"For nearly 25 years, the prevailing view in the has been that a protein called the translocator protein (TSPO) was an essential part of steroid hormone biosynthesis," said the study's lead author Vimal Selvaraj, PhD, of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. "Our study, however, definitively demonstrated that a deficiency of this did not affect testosterone production in male mice."

In the animal study, researchers bred male mice that had a TSPO deficiency in a particular set of testicular cells called Leydig cells. Leydig cells produce testosterone that is critical for the development of the testicles, growth of accessory sex organs, reproductive behavior and fertility. Although TSPO was absent, researchers found the Leydig cells produced normal levels of and that the animals were fertile.

"This discovery rectifies a huge misconception in the field," Selvaraj said. "These findings will force scientists to reexamine conclusions drawn from numerous peer-reviewed studies of steroid hormone biosynthesis. Down the line, our improved understanding of biosynthesis mechanisms will lead to improved diagnoses and treatments for steroid hormone production disorders."

More information: The article, "Translocator Protein/Peripheral Benzodiazepine Receptor Is Not Required for Steroid Hormone Biosynthesis," was published online, ahead of print.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Source of tumor growth in aggressive prostate cancer found

Jun 17, 2013

Researchers have discovered a molecular switch that explains, at least in part, how some fast-growing prostate cancers become resistant to hormone treatment, a new study conducted in human cell cultures and mice finds. The ...

Control gene for developmental timing discovered

Sep 28, 2011

University of Alberta researchers have identified a key regulator that controls the speed of development in the fruit fly. When the researchers blocked the function of this regulator, animals sped up their rate of development ...

Recommended for you

Dendritic cells affect onset and progress of psoriasis

Sep 12, 2014

Different types of dendritic cells in human skin have assorted functions in the early and more advanced stages of psoriasis report researchers in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. The scientists suggest that new strate ...

Approach to deadly sepsis infections continues to vary

Sep 12, 2014

Treatment practices for patients hospitalised with the potentially fatal infection known as "sepsis" will continue to vary because of individual differences between hospitals and countries, according to University of Adelaide ...

User comments