The NADP+-linked oestradiol-17 alpha dehydrogenase (EC present in cell-free extracts of chicken liver was investigated with the aim of separating it from a closely related oestradiol-17 beta dehydrogenase (EC found in the same subcellular fraction. However, its chromatographic behaviour on CM-cellulose and DEAE-cellulose was almost identical with that previously reported for the latter enzyme, including resolution into two peaks on the anion-exchanger. Both peaks contained oestradiol-17 alpha dehydrogenase and oestradiol-17 beta dehydrogenase activity. Further attempts to separate the putative enzymes by dye-ligand chromatography with the use of the dyes Procion Yellow, Reactive Red and Cibachron Blue linked to Sepharose were unsuccessful, and they behaved identically on affinity columns of adenosine 2′,5′-bisphosphate-agarose and 17 beta-oestradiol 3-hemisuccinate bound to Sepharose. A previous report of partial separation on Sephadex G-200 was not confirmed. Slab gel electrophoresis of enzyme preparations after affinity chromatography on adenosine 2′,5′-bisphosphate-agarose revealed multiple bands in systems containing sodium dodecyl sulphate, whereas analysis by rod gel electrophoresis gave two major and one minor bands that stained coincidently for oestradiol-17 alpha dehydrogenase, oestradiol-17 beta dehydrogenase, epitestosterone dehydrogenase and testosterone dehydrogenase activities. Isoelectric focusing gave four enzymically active peaks that each oxidized oestradiol-17 alpha and −17 beta. Apparent Km values for the two forms of oestradiol-17 alpha dehydrogenase obtained by DEAE-cellulose chromatography were 17 and 23 microM for oestradiol-17 alpha, and 8.7 and 11.0 microM for NADP+. Limited kinetic studies with oestradiol-17 alpha and −17 beta with the use of the mixed-substrate method showed that the total velocity was equal to the sum of the separate velocities. The active-site inhibitor-alkylating agent 17 beta-(1-oxoprop-2-ynyl)androst-4-en-3-one did not cause time- or temperature-dependent inhibition, in contrast with the reported case of the oestradiol-17 beta dehydrogenase and 20 alpha-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activities of the human placental oestradiol dehydrogenase. NADP+ appeared to afford some protection against inhibition. Investigation of substrate specificity with a limited range of steroids suggests that the enzyme(s) from chicken liver differs substantially from the oestradiol-17 beta dehydrogenase from human placenta, and although the evidence is not conclusive it suggests the existence of one enzyme.

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