Acute aldosterone production in adrenocortical cells is highly dependent on calcium (Ca2+) and calmodulin (CaM) activation. To determine the role of calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaM kinase II) in human adrenal aldosterone production, the action of KN93 (a specific CaM kinase II inhibitor) on human adrenocortical H295R cells was examined. The stimulation of aldosterone, production by angiotensin II (Ang II) and potassium (K+) were inhibited by KN93 in a concentration-dependent manner with an IC50 of approximately 0.9 and approximately 0.5 microM, respectively. Aldosterone production was also stimulated by treatment with the calcium channel activator Bay K 8644 (Bay K) (1 microM). This production was inhibited in a concentration-dependent manner by KN93 with an IC50 of between 1 and 3 microM. No inhibition by KN93 (0.3-3 microM) or by the calmodulin inhibitor calmidazolium (0.03-0.3 microM) was observed for 22R-hydroxycholesterol (22R-OHChol) stimulation of aldosterone production. Because 22R-OHChol is a substrate for the cytochrome P450 cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450scc) and does not require active transport to the mitochondria, these results indicate that KN93 does not directly inhibit P450scc or later steps leading to aldosterone synthesis. To investigate the site of KN93 action further we examined its effect on agonists induction of steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein, which was recently shown to regulate the movement of cholesterol from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membranes. Induction of StAR protein in H295R cells by Ang II, or Bay K was not affected by co-treatment with KN93 at concentration which blocked steroidogenesis by 60-80%. These results indicate a direct role of CaM kinase II in Ang II and K+ simulation of aldosterone production and support the hypothesis that CaM kinase II may be involved in the process of cholesterol mobilization to the mitochondria.
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