Amodiaquine promotes testosterone production and de novo synthesis of cholesterol and triglycerides in Leydig cells

J Lipid Res. 2021;62:100152. doi: 10.1016/j.jlr.2021.100152. Epub 2021 Nov 19.


Testosterone is a hormone essential for male reproductive function. It is produced primarily by Leydig cells in the testicle through activation of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein and a series of steroidogenic enzymes, including a cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage enzyme (cytochome P450 family 11 subfamily A member 1), 17α-hydroxylase (cytochrome P450 family 17 subfamily A member 1), and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. These steroidogenic enzymes are mainly regulated at the transcriptional level, and their expression is increased by the nuclear receptor 4A1. However, the effect on Leydig cell function of a small molecule-activating ligand, amodiaquine (AQ), is unknown. We found that AQ effectively and significantly increased testosterone production in TM3 and primary Leydig cells through enhanced expression of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein, cytochome P450 family 11 subfamily A member 1, cytochrome P450 family 17 subfamily A member 1, and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. Concurrently, AQ dose-dependently increased the expression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase, a key enzyme in the cholesterol synthesis pathway, through induction of the transcriptional and DNA-binding activities of nuclear receptor 4A1, contributing to increased cholesterol synthesis in Leydig cells. Furthermore, AQ increased the expression of fatty acid synthase and diacylglycerol acyltransferase and potentiated de novo synthesis of fatty acids and triglycerides (TGs). Lipidomics profiling further confirmed a significant elevation of intracellular lipid and TG levels by AQ in Leydig cells. These results demonstrated that AQ effectively promotes testosterone production and de novo synthesis of cholesterol and TG in Leydig cells, indicating that AQ may be beneficial for treating patients with Leydig cell dysfunction and subsequent testosterone deficiency.

Keywords: 3βHSD; CYP11A1; CYP17A1; amodiaquine; cholesterol synthesis; lipidomics; nuclear receptor 4A1; steroidogenesis; steroidogenic acute regulatory protein; testosterone deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amodiaquine / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis*
  • Leydig Cells / drug effects*
  • Leydig Cells / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Testosterone / biosynthesis*
  • Triglycerides / biosynthesis*


  • Triglycerides
  • Amodiaquine
  • Testosterone
  • Cholesterol