Is the unique benzodiazepine structure interacting with CYP enzymes to affect steroid synthesis in vitro?

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The aim of this project was to investigate the endocrine disrupting effects of three gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor (GABA(A)R) agonists, diazepam (DZ), oxazepam (OX) and alprazolam (AL) using the steroidogenic in vitro H295R cell line assay, a recombinant CYP17A1 assay, qPCR analysis and computational modelling. Similar effects for DZ and OX on the steroidogenesis were observed in the H295R experiment at therapeutically relevant concentrations. Progestagens and corticosteroids were increased up to 10 fold and androgens were decreased indicating CYP17A1 lyase inhibition. For DZ the inhibition on both the hydroxylase and lyase was confirmed by the recombinant CYP17A1 assay, whereas OX did not appear to directly affect the recombinant CYP17A1 enzyme. Androgens were decreased when exposing the H295R cells to AL, indicating a CYP17A1 lyase inhibition. However, this was not confirmed by the recombinant CYP17A1 assay but a down-regulation in gene expression was observed for StAR and CYP17A1. The present study showed that the three investigated benzodiazepines (BZDs) are rather potent endocrine disruptors in vitro, exerting endocrine effects close the therapeutic C-max. Both direct and indirect effects on steroidogenesis were observed, but molecular modelling indicated no direct interactions between the heme group in the steroidogenic CYP enzymes and the unique diazepin structure. In contrast, physicochemical properties such as high log P, structure and molecular weight similar to that of steroids appeared to influence the endocrine disrupting abilities of the investigated pharmaceuticals in vitro. Docking of the three BZDs in CYP17A1 and CYP21A2 confirmed that shape complementarity and hydrophobic effects seem to determine the binding modes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105765
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Diazepam, Oxazepam, Alprazolam, H295R, Endocrine disruption, Steroidogenesis in silico modelling, Docking, Binding mode

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