4-hydroxy-4-androstene-3,17-dione (4-OHA) has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of aromatase activity. It is effective in the control of estrogen-dependent processes in female subjects and may potentially be useful in the treatment of estrogen-dependent processes in men. Human foreskin fibroblasts grown in cell culture provide a model to investigate the effects of 4-OHA on extraglandular aromatase activity as well as the ability of the compound to influence androgen receptor binding and the 5α-reduction of testosterone (T). Initial experiments were carried out to determine the potency of 4-OHA in genital skin fibroblasts by incubating cells with 4-OHA over a range of concentrations. When aromatase activity was determined at a substrate concentration close to the apparent Km of the enzyme, a 44% inhibition of enzyme activity occurred at a mean concentration of 5 nM 4-OHA. Enzyme kinetic studies analyzed by Eadie-Hofstee plots demonstrated competitive inhibition by 4-OHA with a mean apparent Ki of 2.7 nM. When 5α-reductase activity was determined in the presence of 200 nM [3H]T, in the absence or presence of 4-OHA, a 50% inhibition of enzyme activity occurred at an inhibitor concentration of 3 μM. In androgen receptor binding studies, 4-OHA possessed 1% of the affinity of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) for [3H]DHT binding sites. In summary: 4-OHA is a potent and specific inhibitor of aromatase activity in human genital skin fibroblasts, the affinity of the enzyme for 4-OHA being greater than its affinity for the substrate, adrenostenedione. The influence of 4-OHA on 5α-reductase activity and androgen receptor binding is minimal.
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