De novo neurosteroidogenesis from cholesterol occurs in the brain of various avian species. However, the biosynthetic pathways leading to the formation of neurosteroids are still not completely elucidated. We have recently found that the avian brain produces 7a-hydroxypregnenolone, a novel bioactive neurosteroid that stimulates locomotor activity. Until recently, it was believed that neurosteroids are produced in neurons and glial cells in the central and peripheral nervous systems. However, our recent studies on birds have demonstrated that the pineal gland, an endocrine organ located close to the brain, is an important site of production of neurosteroids de novo from cholesterol. 7a-Hydroxypregnenolone is a major pineal neurosteroid that stimulates locomotor activity of juvenile birds, connecting light-induced gene expression with locomotion. The other major pineal neurosteroid allopregnanolone is involved in Purkinje cell survival during development. This paper highlights new aspects of neurosteroid synthesis and actions in birds.
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