Dexamethasone downregulates expression of several genes encoding orphan nuclear receptors that are important to steroidogenesis in stallion testes.
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Glucocorticoids impair testosterone synthesis by an unknown mechanism. Stallions treated with the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone had testes collected at 6 or 12hours postinjection. The testicular expression of selected genes encoding nuclear receptors and steroidogenic enzymes was measured. At 6hours, dexamethasone treatment decreased levels of NR0B2, NR4A1, NR5A1, and NR5A2 messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and NR5A2 mRNA levels remained depressed at 12hours. In contrast, dexamethasone increased levels of NFKBIA mRNA at both time points. At 6hours, dexamethasone did not alter levels of NR0B1, NR2F1, NR2F2, NR3C1, CYP11A1, CYP17A1, CYP19A1, DHCR24, GSTA3, HSD3B2, HSD17B3, LHCGR, or STAR mRNAs. In primary cultures of Leydig cells, 10 -9 and 10 -7 M dexamethasone decreased levels of NR4A1 and NR5A1 mRNAs and increased those of NFKBIA mRNA. Our discovery that dexamethasone downregulates NR4A1, NR5A1, and NR5A2 genes, known to be important for testicular functions, may be part of the mechanism by which glucocorticoids acutely decreases testosterone.