Background: The role of 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11beta-HSD1) in the regulation of energy metabolism and immune system by locally reactivating glucocorticoids has been extensively studied. Experiments determining initial rates of enzyme activity revealed that 11beta-HSD1 can catalyze both the reductase and the dehydrogenase reaction in cell lysates, whereas it predominantly catalyzes the reduction of cortisone to cortisol in intact cells that also express hexose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (H6PDH), which provides cofactor NADPH. Besides its role in glucocorticoid metabolism, there is evidence that 11beta-HSD1 is involved in the metabolism of 7-keto- and 7-hydroxy-steroids; however the impact of H6PDH on this alternative function of 11beta-HSD1 has not been assessed.
Methodology: We investigated the 11beta-HSD1-dependent metabolism of the neurosteroids 7-keto-, 7alpha-hydroxy- and 7beta-hydroxy-dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and 7-keto- and 7beta-hydroxy-pregnenolone, respectively, in the absence or presence of H6PDH in intact cells. 3D-structural modeling was applied to study the binding of ligands in 11beta-HSD1.
Principal findings: We demonstrated that 11beta-HSD1 functions in a reversible way and efficiently catalyzed the interconversion of these 7-keto- and 7-hydroxy-neurosteroids in intact cells. In the presence of H6PDH, 11beta-HSD1 predominantly converted 7-keto-DHEA and 7-ketopregnenolone into their corresponding 7beta-hydroxy metabolites, indicating a role for H6PDH and 11beta-HSD1 in the local generation of 7beta-hydroxy-neurosteroids. 3D-structural modeling offered an explanation for the preferred formation of 7beta-hydroxy-neurosteroids.
Conclusions: Our results from experiments determining the steady state concentrations of glucocorticoids or 7-oxygenated neurosteroids suggested that the equilibrium between cortisone and cortisol and between 7-keto- and 7-hydroxy-neurosteroids is regulated by 11beta-HSD1 and greatly depends on the coexpression with H6PDH. Thus, the impact of H6PDH on 11beta-HSD1 activity has to be considered for understanding both glucocorticoid and neurosteroid action in different tissues.