The pharmacology of neurosteroidogenesis

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1994 Jun;49(4-6):385-9. doi: 10.1016/0960-0760(94)90284-4.


In adrenal cortex and other steroidogenic tissues including glial cells, the conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone is catalyzed by the cytochrome P450scc located in the inner mitochondrial membrane. A complex mechanism operative in regulating cholesterol access to P450scc limits the rate of pregnenolone biosynthesis. Participating in this mechanism are DBI (diazepam binding inhibitor), an endogenous peptide that is highly expressed in steroidogenic cells and some of the DBI processing products including DBI 17-50 (TTN). DBI and TTN activate steroidogenesis by binding to a specific receptor located in the outer mitochondrial membrane, termed mitochondrial DBI receptor complex (MDRC). MDRC is a hetero-oligomeric protein: only the subunit that includes the DBI and benzodiazepine (BZD) recognition sites has been cloned. Several 2-aryl-3-indoleacetamide derivatives (FGIN-1-X) with highly selective affinity (nM) for MDRC were synthesized which can stimulate steroidogenesis in mitochondrial preparations. These compounds stimulate adrenal cortex steroidogenesis in hypophysectomized rats but not in intact animals. Moreover, this steroidogenesis is inhibited by the isoquinoline carboxamide derivative PK 11195, a specific high affinity ligand for MDRC with a low intrinsic steroidogenic activity. Some of the FGIN-1-X derivatives stimulate brain pregnenolone accumulation in adrenalectomized-castrated rats. The FGIN-1-X derivatives that increase brain pregnenolone content, elicit antineophobic activity and antagonize punished behavior in the Vogel conflict test in rats. These actions of FGIN-1-X are resistant to inhibition by flumazenil, a specific inhibitor of BZD action in GABAA receptors but are antagonized by PK 11195, a specific blocker of the steroidogenesis activation via MDRC stimulation. It is postulated that the pharmacological action of FGIN-1-X depends on a positive modulation of the GABA action on GABAA receptors mediated by the stimulation of brain neurosteroid production.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology
  • Diazepam Binding Inhibitor
  • Humans
  • Indoleacetic Acids / pharmacology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / drug effects
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Steroids / biosynthesis*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Diazepam Binding Inhibitor
  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Steroids
  • diazepam-binding inhibitor receptor
  • indoleacetamide