Peripheral steroid hormones act on brain tissues through intracellular receptor-mediated mechanisms to regulate several Important brain neuronal functions. The brain is therefore considered to be a target site of steroid hormones. In contrast to this classical concept, new findings over the past decade have established that the brain Itself also synthesizes steroids de novo from cholesterol through mechanisms at least partly independent of peripheral steroidogenic glands. Such steroids synthesized de novo in the brain, as well as other areas of the nervous system, are called neurosteroids. To analyze neurosteroid actions in the brain, we need data on the specific synthesis in particular sites of the brain at particular times. Such information is crucial to developing hypotheses predicting the potential roles of particular neurosteroids in the developing and adult brains. Thus our studies for this exciting area of brain research have focused on the biosynthesis of neurosteroids in the identified neurosteroidogenic cells underlying important brain functions. We have demonstrated that the Purkinje cell, a typical cerebellar neuron, is a major site for neurosteroid formation in the brain. This is the first observation of neuronal neurosteroidogenesis in the brain. Subsequently genomic and nongenomic actions of neurosteroids have been suggested by a series of our studies using an excellent Purkinje cellular model. Here we summarize the advances made in our understanding of biosynthesis of neurosteroids in the cerebellar Purkinje cell.
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