Previous studies over the past two decades have demonstrated that the brain and other nervous systems possess key steroidogenic enzymes and produces pregnenolone and other various neurosteroids in vertebrates in general. Recently, 7α-hydroxypregnenolone, a novel bioactive neurosteroid, was identified in the brain of newts and quail. Importantly, this novel neurosteroid is produced from pregnenolone through the enzymatic activity of cytochrome P4507α and acts on brain tissue as a neuronal modulator to stimulate locomotor activity in these vertebrates. Subsequently, the mode of action of 7α-hydroxypregnenolone was demonstrated. 7α-Hydroxypregnenolone stimulates locomotor activity through activation of the dopaminergic system. To understand the functional significance of 7α-hydroxypregnenolone in the regulation of locomotor activity, diurnal, and seasonal changes in 7α-hydroxypregnenolone synthesis were further characterized. Melatonin derived from the pineal gland and eyes regulates 7α-hydroxypregnenolone synthesis in the brain, thus inducing diurnal locomotor changes. Prolactin, an adenohypophyseal hormone, regulates 7α-hydroxypregnenolone synthesis in the brain, and also induces seasonal locomotor changes. In addition, 7α-hydroxypregnenolone mediates corticosterone action to modulate locomotor activity under stress. This review summarizes the current knowledge regarding the mode of action and functional significance of 7α-hydroxypregnenolone, a newly identified bioactive neurosteroid stimulating locomotor activity.
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