Simvastatin reduces steroidogenesis by inhibiting Cyp17a1 gene expression in rat ovarian theca-interstitial cells

Israel Ortega, Amanda B. Cress, Donna H. Wong, Jesus A. Villanueva, Anna Sokalska, Ben C. Moeller, Scott D. Stanley, Antoni J. Duleba

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43 Scopus citations


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is characterized by ovarian enlargement, theca-interstitial hyperplasia, and increased androgen production by theca cells. Previously, our group has demonstrated that statins (competitive inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-coenzyme A reductase, a rate-limiting step of the mevalonate pathway) reduce proliferation of theca-interstitial cells in vitro and decrease serum androgen levels in women with PCOS. The present study evaluated the effect of simvastatin on rat ovarian theca-interstitial cell steroidogenesis. Because actions of statins may be due to reduced cholesterol availability and/or isoprenylation of proteins, the present study also investigated whether steroidogenesis was affected by cell- and mitochondrionpermeable 22-hydroxycholesterol, isoprenylation substrates (farnesyl-pyrophosphate [FPP] and geranylgeranyl-pyrophosphate [GGPP]), as well as selective inhibitors of farnesyltransferase (FTI) and geranylgeranyltransferase (GGTI). Theca-interstitial cells were cultured for 12, 24, and 48 h with or without simvastatin, GGPP, FPP, FTI, GGTI, and/or 22-hydroxycholesterol. Simvastatin decreased androgen levels in a time- and concentration-dependent fashion. This inhibitory effect correlated with a decrease in mRNA levels of Cyp17a1, the gene encoding the key enzyme regulating androgen biosynthesis. After 48 h, GGPP alone and FPP alone had no effect on Cyp17a1 mRNA expression; however, the inhibitory action of simvastatin was partly abrogated by both GGPP and FPP. The present findings indicate that statin-induced reduction of androgen levels is likely due, at least in part, to the inhibition of isoprenylation, resulting in decreased expression of CYP17A1.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Androgens/androgen receptor
  • CYP17A1
  • Cell culture
  • Ovarian theca-interstitial cells
  • Ovary
  • Simvastatin
  • Steroid hormones/steroid hormone receptors
  • Steroidogenesis
  • Theca cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine


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