Sphingomyelinase inhibits in vitro Leydig cell function

Bernard M. Degnan, Brooke Bourdelat-Parks, Allan Daniel, Kalman Salata, Gary L. Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Activation of the immune system has profound effects on endocrine function which are mediated by cytokines including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα). In vitro, TNFα has been shown to directly inhibit Leydig cell testosterone (T) production, but the mechanism of this effect is still unclear. Recent studies using cultured human fibroblasts have shown that TNFα stimulates the activity of neutral sphingomyelinase (SMase) which hydrolyses sphingomyelin (SM) generating ceramide and changing membrane components including cholesterol. The cellular effects of increased SMase activity have been reproduced in vitro by the addition of exogenous SMase. In cultured fibroblasts, exogenous SMase decreased cholesterol synthesis. These findings led us to hypothesize that SMase might be important in the regulation of steroid hormone synthesis. To our knowledge, no previous studies have investigated this possibility. To test this hypothesis, rat Leydig cell enriched cultures were incubated in media containing SMase (0.1 to 100 mU/ml) or in control media. SMase significantly decreased basal and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) stimulated T production. SMase also decreased hCG binding and hCG stimulated adenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP). N-acetyl- sphingosine (0.1 to 10 μM), a water soluble ceramide, was used to determine whether or not the effects of SMase could be reproduced by ceramide addition. N-acetyl-sphingosine had only slight effects on basal T and cAMP, and no effect on hCG binding or hCG stimulated T or CAMP. These data suggest the metabolism of membrane sphingomyelin may be an important regulatory pathway in the control of Leydig cell function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-242
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Clinical and Laboratory Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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