Effects of 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid on the junctional complex and steroidogenesis in rat adrenocortical cells

Shih Horng Huang, Jiahn Chun Wu, Ra Der Hwang, Hui Lin Yeo, Seu Mei Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Cellular junctions play important roles in cell differentiation, signal transduction, and cell function. This study investigated their function in steroid secretion by adrenal cells. Immunofluorescence staining revealed the presence of gap junctions and adherens junctions between adrenal cells. The major gap junction protein, connexin43, was seen as a linear dotted pattern of the typical gap junction plaques, in contrast to α-, β-, and γ-catenin, which were seen as continuous, linear staining of cell-cell adherens junction. Treatment with 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid, a gap junction inhibitor, reduced the immunoreactivity of these proteins in a time- and dose-dependent manner, and caused the gap junction and adherens junction to separate longitudinally from the cell-cell contact sites, indicating the structural interdependency of these two junctions. Interestingly, 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid stimulated a two- to three-fold increase in steroid production in these adrenal cells lacking intact cell junctions. These data raise the question of the necessity for cell communication for the endocrine function of adrenal cells. Pharmacological analyses indicated that the steroidogenic effect of 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid was partially mediated by extracellular signal-related kinase and calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase, a pathway distinct from the protein kinase A signaling pathway already known to mediate steroidogenesis in adrenal cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2003


  • 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid
  • Adherens junction
  • Adrenocortical cells
  • Gap junction
  • Signaling pathway
  • Steroidogenesis


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