Steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) is an orphan member of the nuclear receptor family expressed in steroidogenic tissues, where it has an essential role in the regulation of the steroid hormone biosynthesis, adrenal and gonadal development and endocrine responses fundamental for reproduction. Here we show that SF-1 regulates the transcription of cytosolic 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) synthase gene, which is essential for the endogenous synthesis of cholesterol. We have identified an element located 365bp upstream of the gene for cytosolic HMG-CoA synthase; SF-1 binds as a monomer to this element and confers SF-1 responsiveness to homologous and heterologous promoters. It has been shown that in tissues with a high demand for cholesterol to be used in steroid synthesis, there is a lack of correlation between the cholesterol levels and the activity of the limiting enzymes of the mevalonate pathway. In accord with those results, we observed that cholesterol synthesis from acetate and either cytosolic HMG-CoA mRNA expression or transcriptional activity were not changed in response to 25-hydroxycholesterol in the SF-1-expressing steroidogenic Leydig tumour MA-10 cells. Moreover, the overexpression of SF-1 in non-steroidogenic CV-1 cells renders them less sensitive to the regulatory effects of cholesterol. This observation led to the hypothesis that in steroidogenic tissues the expression of SF-1 permits high levels of endogenous synthesis of cholesterol irrespective of the intracellular levels of this metabolite.

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