Routes and regulation of NADPH production in steroidogenic mitochondria

Endocr Res. Feb-May 1995;21(1-2):231-41. doi: 10.3109/07435809509030439.


The first and rate-limiting step of steroidogenesis is catalyzed by the mitochondrial cholesterol side chain cleavage system that is dependent on NADPH. The pathways of NADPH generation in steroidogenic mitochondria include three major routes catalyzed by: 1. NADP-linked malic enzyme, 2. NADP-linked isocitrate dehydrogenase, and 3. nicotinamide nucleotide transhydrogenase. The main route may differ among cell types and across species. Generally operation of alternative routes, with different substrates is not excluded. The oxidation of NADPH by the mitochondrial P450 systems is not tightly coupled with substrate metabolism, as these systems can reduce O2 by a single electron to produce harmful superoxide radical. To minimize such futile NADPH oxidation, NADPH generation may be regulated by two types of mechanisms: 1. Feedback mechanisms that maintain the ratio of NADPH/NADP+ at a steady-state level by enhancing the rate of NADPH production to keep up with its rate of oxidation, e.g., allosteric regulation of enzymes involved in NADPH production. 2. Hormonal signals that enhance the level of NADPH production in coordination with steroidogenesis. One major hypothesis with experimental evidence is that stimulation of mitochondrial NAD(P)H synthesis is mediated by Ca++ as a second messenger of tropic factors. Tropic stimulation of cells increases the levels of Ca++ in the cytosol and then in the mitochondrial matrix, and the rise in Ca++ activates enzymes involved in NAD(P)H synthesis. These regulatory mechanisms most probably operate in concert adjusted to the steroidogenic activity of the cell.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • NADP / biosynthesis*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Steroids / biosynthesis*
  • Steroids / metabolism


  • Steroids
  • NADP
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System