Adrenarche in humans occurs at the age of 5-7 years, yet the process by which dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) biosynthesis in the adrenal zona reticularis (ZR) increases so dramatically remains as a matter of debate. One suggestion is that increased DHEA production by P450c17 (CYP17A1 as listed in HUGO Database) in the ZR results from a coincident fall in the expression of HSD3B, which would otherwise compete for pregnenolone substrate. Nonetheless, studies of human and rhesus adrenal show that cytochrome b5 (CYTB5) expression increases in the ZR with DHEA biosynthesis, and cloned human and rhesus P450c17 show selective increases in 17,20-lyase activity in the presence of CYTB5. The marmoset, a New World primate, expresses a fetal zone during development which regresses after birth. Adult males, however, do not develop an obvious functional ZR, while females develop a ZR in a manner that depends on their social/gonadal status. In all social and physiologic states, changes in marmoset ZR function relate directly to changes in the expression of CYTB5. Recent cloning and expression of marmoset P450c17 also show that while amino acid sequence homology is in the order of ∼85% of that found in human and rhesus sequences, and basal lyase activity is low compared with rhesus, all previously described amino acids critical to human 17,20-lyase activity are completely conserved. Furthermore, the 17,20-lyase activity of the marmoset P450c17 clone is dramatically increased by addition of CYTB5. We propose that these combined data from the marmoset model provide further compelling evidence that the control of ZR CYTB5 expression is a key determinant of ZR function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism