Increased 27-hydroxycholesterol production during luteolysis may mediate the progressive decline in progesterone secretion

Yafei Xu, Scot M. Hutchison, José J. Hernández-Ledezma, Randy L. Bogan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


STUDY QUESTION: Does 27-hydroxycholesterol (27OH) actively facilitate the progression of luteolysis? SUMMARY ANSWER: There is increased mRNA expression of the enzyme that produces 27OH during luteolysis in vivo in rhesus macaques and sheep, and 27OH reduces progesterone secretion from human luteinized granulosa cells. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: There is an increase in mRNA expression of liver x receptor (LXR) and a decrease in sterol regulatory element binding protein 2 (SREBP2) target genes during spontaneous luteolysis in primates, which could result in reduced cholesterol availability for steroidogenesis. Concentrations of 27OH are also increased in primate corpora lutea (CL) during luteolysis, and 27OH is a dual LXR agonist and SREBP2 inhibitor. STUDY DESIGN SIZE, DURATION: This was an in vitro study using primary human luteinized granulosa cells in a control versus treatment(s) design. Analyses of CL from sheep undergoing induced or spontaneous luteolysis were also performed, along with database mining of microarray data from rhesus macaque CL. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Primary luteinizing granulosa cells were obtained from 37 women aged 24–44 who were undergoing oocyte donation or IVF for male factor or idiopathic infertility, and cells were further luteinized in vitro using human chorionic gonadotropin. Three approaches to test the effect of 27OH produced via CYP27A1 (cytochrome p450, family 27, subfamily A, polypeptide 1) on luteinized granulosa cells were used: (i) direct 27OH supplementation, (ii) induction of endogenous CYP27A1 activity via pharmacologic inhibition of steroidogenesis, and (iii) siRNA-mediated knockdown to directly inhibit CYP27A1 as well as cholesterol transport into the mitochondria via the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR). Endpoints included: progesterone (P4) secretion into culture media determined by enzyme immunoassay, cholesterol efflux and uptake assays using fluorescent lipid analogs, and mRNA expression determined via semi-quantitative real-time PCR (QPCR). An additional experiment involved QPCR analysis of 40 CL collected from ewes undergoing induced or spontaneous luteolysis, as well as database mining of microarray data generated from 16 rhesus macaque CL collected during spontaneous luteolysis and 13 macaque CL collected during a luteinizing hormone ablation and replacement protocol. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: The mRNA expression of CYP27A1 was significantly increased during luteolysis in rhesus macaques and sheep in vivo, and CYP27A1 transcription was suppressed by luteinizing hormone and hCG. There was a significant decrease in hCG-stimulated P4 secretion from human luteinized granulosa cells caused by 27OH treatment, and a significant increase in basal and hCG-stimulated P4 synthesis when endogenous 27OH production was inhibited via CYP27A1 knockdown, indicating that 27OH inhibits steroidogenesis. Pharmacologic inhibition of steroidogenesis by aminoglutethimide significantly induced LXR and inhibited SREBP2 target gene mRNA expression, indicating that increased oxysterol production occurs when steroidogenesis is suppressed. Inhibiting cholesterol delivery into the mitochondria via knockdown of STAR resulted in reduced SREBP2 target gene mRNA expression, indicating that STAR function is necessary to maintain SREBP2-mediated transcription. The effects of 27OH treatment on markers of LXR and SREBP2 activity were moderate, and knockdown of CYP27A1 did not prevent aminoglutethimide-induced changes in LXR and SREBP2 target gene mRNA expression. These observations indicate that 27OH inhibits P4 secretion partially via mechanisms separate from its role as an LXR agonist and SREBP2 inhibitor, and also demonstrate that other oxysterols are involved in modulating LXR and SREBP2-mediated transcription when steroidogenesis is suppressed. LARGE SCALE DATA: None. LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: Luteinized granulosa cells may differ from luteal cells, and the effect on luteal function in vivo was not directly tested. The mechanisms that cause the initial rise in CYP27A1 mRNA expression during luteolysis are also not clear. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The factors causing luteolysis in primates have not yet been determined. This study provides functional evidence of a novel mechanism via increased 27OH synthesis during luteolysis, which subsequently represses progesterone secretion. Increased 27OH may also facilitate the progression of luteolysis in domestic animal species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-13
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular human reproduction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • 27-hydroxycholesterol
  • CYP27A1
  • Cholesterol metabolism
  • Corpus luteum
  • Human luteinized granulosa cells
  • Liver x receptor
  • Luteolysis
  • Progesterone
  • STAR
  • Sterol regulatory element binding protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Embryology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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