Steroidogenesis in the brain of Sepia officinalis and Octopus vulgaris

Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2010 Jan 1;2:673-83. doi: 10.2741/e127.


The presence of vertebrate-like steroids, steroidogenic enzymes and steroid receptors has been reported exclusively in cephalopods gonads. The role played by these steroids has been also recently investigated. We here give evidence of steroidogenic activity in the brain of cephalopods. The activity of two key steroidogenic enzymes: 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD) and 17beta-HSD is present in the lobes of the nervous system of both Sepia and Octopus. Such enzymes convert pregnenolone to progesterone and androstenedione to testosterone respectively. Binding experiments seem to assign a functional role to the androgens in the brain of cephalopods. According to the present results, the absence of any progesterone binding moiety supports the hypothesis that progesterone may be a metabolite product along the steroidogenic chain leading to androgens. The presence of steroidogenic enzymes in specific lobes of the central nervous system is discussed in terms of the possible role that steroids can play in the sexual differentiation of the brain and in influencing some coded behaviours of cephalopods, such as learning processes.

MeSH terms

  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • 3-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Octopodiformes / metabolism*
  • Progesterone / biosynthesis*
  • Sepia / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / biosynthesis*


  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • 3-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases