The brain synthesizes steroids de novo from cholesterol, which are called neurosteroids. Based on extensive studies on neurosteroids over the past thirty years, it is now accepted that neurosteroidogenesis in the brain is a conserved property across vertebrates. However, the formation of bioactive neurosteroids in the brain is still incompletely elucidated in vertebrates. In fact, we recently identified 7α-hydroxypregnenolone (7α-OH PREG) as a novel bioactive neurosteroid stimulating locomotor behavior in the brain of several vertebrates. The follow-up studies have demonstrated that the stimulatory action of brain 7α-OH PREG on locomotor behavior is mediated by the dopaminergic system across vertebrates. More recently, we have further demonstrated that the pineal gland, an endocrine organ located close to the brain, is a major site of the formation of bioactive neurosteroids. In addition to the brain, the pineal gland actively produces 7α-OH PREG de novo from cholesterol as a major pineal neurosteroid that acts on the brain to control locomotor rhythms. This review summarizes the identification, biosynthesis and mode of action of brain and pineal 7α-OH PREG, a new bioactive neurosteroid regulating locomotor behavior, across vertebrates.
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