It is becoming clear that steroids can be synthesized de novo by the brain and other nervous systems. Such steroids are called neurosteroids, and de novo neurosteroidogenesis from cholesterol is a conserved property of vertebrate brains. In this study, we show that the newt brain actively produces 7α-hydroxypregnenolone, a previously undescribed amphibian neurosteroid that stimulates locomotor activity. 7α-hydroxypregnenolone was identified as a most abundant amphibian neurosteroid in the newt brain by using biochemical techniques combined with HPLC, TLC, and GC-MS analyses. The production of 7α-hydroxypregnenolone in the diencephalon and rhombencephalon was higher than that in the telencephalon and peripheral steroidogenic glands. In addition, 7α-hydroxypregnenolone synthesis in the brain showed marked changes during the annual breeding cycle, with a maximal level in the spring breeding period when locomotor activity of the newt increases. Behavioral analysis of newts in the nonbreeding period demonstrated that administration of this previously undescribed amphibian neurosteroid acutely increased locomotor activity. In vitro analysis further revealed that 7α-hydroxypregnenolone treatment resulted in a dose-dependent increase in the release of dopamine from cultured brain tissue of nonbreeding newts. The effect of this neurosteroid on locomotion also was abolished by dopamine D2-like receptor antagonists. These results indicate that 7α-hydroxypregnenolone acts as a neuronal activator to stimulate locomotor activity of breeding newts through the dopaminergic system. This study demonstrates a physiological function of 7α-hydroxypregnenolone that has not been described previously in any vertebrate class. This study also provides findings on the regulatory mechanism of locomotor activity from a unique standpoint.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Publication status||Published - 2004 Dec 7|
- Dopamine release
- Newt brain
- Seasonal changes
ASJC Scopus subject areas