Many biologically active neurosteroids, including dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are synthesised in the brain. DHEA is a potent endogenous modulator of several neuronal functions, and alterations of DHEA are correlated with various neurobiological deficits. The cytochrome P450 17α-hydroxylase/C(17,20)-lyase (P450C(17) ) plays a pivotal role in the synthesis of DHEA from pregnenolone and progesterone. We investigated the immunohistochemical localisation and molecular expression of P450C(17) in the superior, lateral, medial and inferior vestibular nuclei (VCN) of adult male rats by western blotting and indirect immunofluorescence analysis. Immunoreactive P450C(17) was widely distributed in all VCN and the expression of P450C(17) was confirmed by western blot analysis. The present study demonstrates, for the first time, the presence and anatomical distribution of P450C(17) in the VCN. Given that neurosteroids can modulate neuronal activities in the medial vestibular nucleus, DHEA synthesised in the VCN may play an important role in the control of specific activities at this level.
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Neuroendocrinology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.