The Role of Specific Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Signaling Cascades in the Regulation of Steroidogenesis
The protein kinase C (PKC) signaling pathway plays integral roles in the expression of the steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein that regulates steroid biosynthesis in steroidogenic cells. PKC can modulate the activity of cAMP/protein kinase A signaling involved in steroidogenesis; however, its mechanism remains obscure. In the present study, we demonstrate that activation of the PKC pathway, by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), was capable of potentiating dibutyryl cAMP [(Bu)(2)cAMP]-stimulated StAR expression, StAR phosphorylation, and progesterone synthesis in both mouse Leydig (MA-10) and granulosa (KK-1) tumor cells. The steroidogenic potential of PMA and (Bu)(2)cAMP was linked with phosphorylation of ERK 1/2; however, inhibition of the latter demonstrated varying effects on steroidogenesis. Transcriptional activation of the StAR gene by PMA and (Bu)(2)cAMP was influenced by several factors, its up-regulation being dependent on phosphorylation of the cAMP response element binding protein (CREB). An oligonucleotide probe containing a CREB/activating transcription factor binding region in the StAR promoter was found to bind nuclear proteins in PMA and (Bu)(2)cAMP-treated MA-10 and KK-1 cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation studies revealed that the induction of phosphorylated CREB was tightly correlated with in vivo protein-DNA interactions and recruitment of CREB binding protein to the StAR promoter. Ectopic expression of CREB binding protein enhanced CREB-mediated transcription of the StAR gene, an event that was markedly repressed by the adenovirus E1A oncoprotein. Further studies demonstrated that the activation of StAR expression and steroid synthesis by PMA and (Bu)(2)cAMP was associated with expression of the nuclear receptor Nur77, indicating its essential role in hormone-regulated steroidogenesis. Collectively, these findings provide insight into the mechanisms by which PKC modulates cAMP/protein kinase A responsiveness involved in regulating the steroidogenic response in mouse gonadal cells.