The ontogenesis of the steroidogenic tissues


  • Ken-ichirou Morohashi

    1. Laboratory of Gene Expression and Regulation, National Institute for Basic Biology, Nishigonaka 38, Myodaiji-cho, Okazaki 444, Japan
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Ken-ichirou Morohashi


Based on the common function of steroid hormone-producing tissues and homologous regulation by the hypothalamo-pituitary axis, the adrenal cortex and the gonads have been suggested to have an intimate ontogenic relationship. This assumption is also supported by the findings of common transcription factors implicated in the differentiation of both types of tissue and further supported by concomitant defects in such tissues due to the disruption of a single gene. Similarly, simultaneous anomalies in those tissues are also observed in some diseases caused by mutations of the genes encoding those transcription factors. A recent immunohistochemical study with one of the transcription factors, Ad4BP/SF-1, definitely demonstrated the presence of a particular cell population designated the ‘adreno-genital primordium (AGP)’ which gives rise to both the adrenal cortex and the gonads. In the process of differentiation from the AGP to the mature adrenal cortex and the gonads of the two sexes, several interesting issues can be raised as to the next targets for the study. To address these issues it is important to elucidate the upstream regulatory mechanisms and downstream target genes of such transcription factors as WT1, SRY, SOX9 and DAX1, in addition to Ad4BP/SF-1, all of which are implicated in steroidogenic tissue differentiation.