Paeoniflorin extract reverses dexamethasone-induced testosterone over-secretion through downregulation of cytochrome P450 17A1 expression in primary murine theca cells

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Journal Article
Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2019, 229 pp. 97 - 103
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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. Ethnopharmacological relevance: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex endocrine and reproductive disorder. A main hallmark includes increased androgen production. The root of Paeonia lactiflora Pall. (Bai Shao) is used in Chinese herbal medicine for reproductive disorders, however its effects and mechanisms on ovarian theca cells has not yet been fully elucidated. Aim of the study: The aim of this study was to evaluate effect of paeoniflorin extract (PFE), the main constituents of Bai Shao, on androgen production in ovarian theca cells. Materials and methods: Primary murine theca cells were treated with concentrations of PFE (1–100 µg/mL) in the presence of dexamethasone (10 µM) with media-only treated cells used as the control. After 24 h, culture media was collected for biochemistry assays of testosterone and progesterone. Expression of key steroidogenic enzymes, cholesterol side-chain cleavage (CYP11A1) and 17α-hydroxylase (CYP17A1) was characterized using immunofluorescence staining, immunoblotting and qRT-PCR. Results: Dexamethasone significantly enhanced testosterone secretion (P < 0.05 vs. the control cells). PFE reversed over-production of testosterone induced by dexamethasone in a dose-dependent manner. The treatment with PFE also normalized production of progesterone in dexamethasone-treated cells. Expression of CYP11A1 and CYP17A1 in the theca cells were visualised by immunofluorescence staining. All doses of PFE significantly inhibited CYP17A1 expression detected by immunoblotting, but only 100 µg/mL of PFE downregulated CYP11A1 expression and reduced CYP11A1 significantly in dexamethasone-treated theca cells. Conclusions: PFE may reduce over-secretion of testosterone in theca cells through downregulation of CYP17A1 and CYP11A1. These findings provide scientific evidence to treat ovarian hyperandrogenism with the root of Paeonia lactiflora Pall.
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