Regulation of the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein expression: functional and physiological consequences

Curr Drug Targets Immune Endocr Metabol Disord. 2005 Mar;5(1):93-108. doi: 10.2174/1568008053174714.


Steroid hormones are synthesized in steroidogenic cells of the adrenal, ovary, testis, placenta and brain and are essential for normal reproductive function and bodily homeostasis. The rate-limiting and regulated step in steroid biosynthesis is the intramitochondrial transport of cholesterol, a process that is mediated by the steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein. The importance of StAR has been illustrated by analyses of patients with lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia (lipoid CAH), an autosomal recessive disorder that markedly disrupts the synthesis of all gonadal and adrenal steroids. Molecular and physio-pathological analyses have demonstrated that alterations in the StAR gene are the only known cause of lipoid CAH. Furthermore, StAR knockout mice have been generated and display a phenotype that is essentially identical to the human condition. Recent advances in tissue-specific and hormone-induced expression of the StAR protein provide insights into a number of human endocrinological health issues including developmental and reproductive abnormalities. Several factors and processes have been demonstrated to influence StAR expression in steroidogenic cells and there is increasing evidence that a transcription factor-binding site-rich region present in the proximal region of the StAR promoter is highly instrumental in StAR gene expression. In this review we focus on the significant findings that have been made with regards to the regulation of StAR expression and also on the clinical and endocrinological consequences of a non-functioning StAR gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / genetics
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Phosphoproteins / biosynthesis*
  • Phosphoproteins / deficiency
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / physiology*


  • Phosphoproteins
  • steroidogenic acute regulatory protein