Molecular and cellular endocrinology vol:47 issue:1-2 pages:99-106
We studied the effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) on steroidogenesis in freshly prepared Percoll-purified Leydig cells from prepubertal and adult rats and mice, and in interstitial cells from immature rats cultured in the presence or absence of LH. It is demonstrated that EGF directly stimulates the output of C19-steroids (testosterone and androstenedione) as well as C21-steroids (progesterone, 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone and 20 alpha-hydroxypregn-4-en-3-one) in all systems studied. When combined with LH, EGF has little effect on freshly isolated cells but still stimulates steroidogenesis in cells cultured in the presence of LH. The strong inhibitory effects of EGF on androgen production that have been reported previously are only observed when cells that have lost part of their steroidogenic potential by prolonged culture in the absence of LH are acutely challenged with LH (or cholera toxin or dbcAMP) and EGF. Under the latter conditions EGF blocks the conversion of C21-steroids into C19-steroids. The stimulatory effects of EGF on androgen production are evident within the first hours of incubation and occur at ED50 values of 0.3 up to 2.5 ng/ml. They are not accompanied by any measurable change in the production of cAMP. The effects of EGF are compared to those of LHRH and those of SCF, a putative paracrine factor produced by Sertoli cells. Although there are many similarities between the effects of these three polypeptides on steroidogenesis in Leydig cells, our data indicate that they must act by different mechanisms. Moreover, SCF is the only one of these agonists that markedly stimulates androgen production in the presence of LH.