Steroid sulfatase in the mouse NIH-3T3 fibroblast cell line: Characterization, and downregulation by glucocorticoids
Steroid hormones often circulate in the blood as inactive sulfated forms, such as estrone sulfate and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. The enzyme steroid sulfatase (STS) converts these steroids into active forms, mainly estrogens, in peripheral tissues. We have previously characterized STS activity in human and mouse breast and bone tissues, and we have shown that STS can provide estrogens to these tissues from circulating sulfated precursors. This study was designed to characterize STS activity in a mouse fibroblast cell line (NIH-3T3). Using a radioactive estrone sulfate (ES) conversion assay, we detected STS activity in cultured NIH-3T3 cells. This activity was blocked by the STS inhibitors EMATE and STX-64, indicating authentic STS activity. We also found that microsomes prepared from NIH-3T3 cells had relatively high STS activity and that cytosols had low activity, consistent with the known distribution of this enzyme to the endoplasmic reticulum. Michaelis-Menten analysis of the NIH-3T3 microsomes indicated a Km of 10.9 µM using ES as substrate. Primary fibroblasts prepared from mouse ears and tails also had measurable STS activity, as indicated by H-ES conversion assay, further supporting the conclusion that fibroblasts possess STS. Furthermore, Western blotting confirmed the presence of immunoreactive STS in NIH-3T3 microsomes. With regard to regulation, treatments of cultured NIH-3T3 cells revealed that cortisol and the synthetic glucocorticoids dexamethasone and prednisolone decreased STS activity, as we have found for cell lines from other tissues. The effect of cortisol was seen at both 10 µM and 1.0 µM but not at 0.1 µM. Western blotting also indicated a decrease in STS immunoreactivity in cortisol-treated microsomes. The reduction in STS activity by dexamethasone in whole cells was reversed by the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU-486, indicating that glucocorticoid downregulation of STS activity is receptor mediated. An inhibition assay on NIH-3T3 microsomes revealed that STS activity was inhibited significantly by 10 µM estradiol-17β, a known substrate inhibitor of ES for STS, but not by 10 µM cortisol. This is consistent with the idea that cortisol inhibits STS in NIH-3T3 cells through a regulatory mechanism rather than by substrate inhibition. Our results could have important implications regarding local estrogen production by STS in fibroblasts, which are the most common connective tissue cells in the body, and on possible regulation of local estrogen levels by cortisol.