Mitochondrial 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD) is essential for the synthesis of progesterone by corpora lutea: an hypothesis

Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2005 Apr 3;3:11. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-3-11.


In mouse ovaries, the enzyme 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD) is distributed between microsomes and mitochondria. Throughout the follicular phase of the estrous cycle, the HSD activity in microsomes is predominant; whereas, after LH stimulation, HSD activity during the luteal phase is highest in the mitochondria. The current study examined whether or not LH stimulation always results in an increase in mitochondrial HSD activity. This was accomplished by measuring the HSD activity in microsomal and mitochondrial fractions from ovaries of pregnant mice. These animals have two peaks of LH during gestation, and one peak of LH after parturition. It was found that mitochondrial HSD activity was highest after each peak of LH. It is proposed that mitochondrial HSD is essential for the synthesis of high levels of progesterone. The increase in HSD activity in mitochondria after LH stimulation occurs because: 1) LH initiates the simultaneous synthesis of HSD and the cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450scc); and, 2) HSD and P450scc bind together to form a complex, which becomes inserted into the inner membrane of the mitochondria. High levels of progesterone are synthesized by mitochondrial HSD because: 1) the requisite NAD+ cofactor for progesterone synthesis is provided directly by the mitochondria, rather than indirectly via the rate limiting malate-aspartate shuttle; and, 2) the end-product inhibition of P450scc by pregnenolone is eliminated because pregnenolone is converted to progesterone.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • 3-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Corpus Luteum / enzymology*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Female
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microsomes / enzymology
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Pregnancy
  • Progesterone / biosynthesis*


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Progesterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • 3-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Electron Transport Complex IV