Androgen activation of the sterol regulatory element-binding protein pathway: Current insights

Mol Endocrinol. 2006 Oct;20(10):2265-77. doi: 10.1210/me.2005-0479. Epub 2006 Feb 2.


The cellular effects of androgens are mediated by a cognate receptor, the androgen receptor. Typically, the androgen receptor is viewed to exert its activity by binding to androgen response elements located in or near the promoter region of target genes, thereby directly affecting the expression of these genes. However, increasing evidence indicates that androgens may also indirectly influence the expression of genes that do not contain androgen response elements by modulating the activity of secondary transcription factors, mediating the expression of growth factors acting in a paracrine or autocrine fashion, or by inducing changes in the production of other hormones. These indirect effects of androgens can induce cascade-like actions and may play an important role in more complex processes involving coordinated responses of genes, cells, and organs. Previously, our laboratory has identified and characterized a novel indirect mechanism of androgen action involving proteolytical activation of the key lipogenic transcription factor sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP), resulting in the coordinate up-regulation of entire cellular lipogenic pathways. Interestingly, activation of SREBPs by androgens occurs not only under normal physiological conditions but has also been observed in a growing number of pathologies, and more in particular in the setting of steroid-regulated cancers, where increased lipogenesis has been shown to have remarkable diagnostic and prognostic potential and is considered a prime target for novel therapeutic approaches. This review aims to analyze current insights into the molecular mechanism(s) underlying androgen activation of the SREBP pathway and to ascertain the extent to which this phenomenon can be generalized to androgen-responsive cell systems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Lipogenesis / physiology*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Androgens
  • INSIG1 protein, human
  • INSIG2 protein, human
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Proteins