International Drug Names
Legal status Commercially available
ATC code None
C 21 H 32 O 2
Mol. mass 316.483 g/mol
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Pregnenolone, 3beta-Hydroxypregn-5-en-20-one is an endogenous steroid hormone involved in the steroidogenesis of progestogens, mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, androgens, and estrogens, as well as the neuroactive steroids. As such it is a prohormone, though it also has biological effects of its own, behaving namely as a neuroactive steroid in its own right with potent anxiolytic effects. citation needed
steroids, pregnenolone consists of four interconnected cyclic hydrocarbons. It contains ketone and hydroxyl functional groups, two methyl branches, and a double bond at C5, in the B cyclic hydrocarbon ring. Like many steroid hormones, it is hydrophobic. Its esterified version, pregnenolone sulfate, is water-soluble.
Pregnenolone is synthesized from
cholesterol. This conversion involves hydroxylation at the side-chain at C20 and C22 positions, with cleavage of the side-chain. The enzyme performing this task is cytochrome P450scc, located in the mitochondria, and controlled by anterior pituitary tropic hormones, such as ACTH, FSH, LH.
To assay conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone, radiolabelled cholesterol has been used.
Pregnenolone product can be separated from cholesterol substrate using Sephadex LH-20 minicolumns. 1 1
Pregnenolone undergoes further steroid metabolism in one of three ways.
Pregnenolone can be converted to androsta-5,16-dien-3 beta-ol by 16-ene synthetase.
Pregnenolone and its sulfate, like
DHEA and its sulfate and progesterone, belong to the group of neurosteroids that are found in high concentrations in certain areas of the brain, and are synthesized there. Neurosteroids affect synaptic functioning, are neuroprotective, and enhance myelinization. Pregnenolone and its sulfate ester are under investigation for their potential to improve cognitive and memory functioning. Pregnenolone is also being considered as a potential treatment for 2 schizophrenia. 3
Interestingly, unlike pregnenolone,
pregnenolone sulfate is a negative allosteric modulator of the GABA A receptor as well as a positive allosteric modulator of the 4 NMDA receptor. In addition, it has been shown to activate the 5 transient receptor potential M3 (TRPM3) ion channel in hepatocytes and pancreatic islets causing calcium entry and subsequent insulin release. 6
Pregnenolone, a molecule produced by the brain, acts as a natural defense mechanism against effects of cannabis/marijuana in animals.
Pregnenolone prevents THC/Tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active principle in cannabis, from fully activating its brain receptor, the CB1 receptor, that when overstimulated by THC/Tetrahydrocannabinol causes the intoxicating effects of cannabis/marijuana. 2 major behavioral problems are associated with regular cannabis use in humans: cognitive deficits and a general loss of motivation( 7 http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-01/ind-mdt010214.php , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pregnenolone , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrahydrocannabinol and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis)
^ a b Hanukoglu I, Jefcoate CR (1980). "Pregnenolone separation from cholesterol using Sephadex LH-20 mini-columns". Journal of Chromatography A 190 (1): 256–262. doi: 10.1016/S0021-9673(00)85545-4.
^ Vallée M, Mayo W, Le Moal M (November 2001). "Role of pregnenolone, dehydroepiandrosterone and their sulfate esters on learning and memory in cognitive aging". Brain Research. Brain Research Reviews 37 (1-3): 301–12. doi: 10.1016/S0165-0173(01)00135-7. PMID 11744095.
^ Marx CE, Bradford DW, Hamer RM, et al. (September 2011). "Pregnenolone as a novel therapeutic candidate in schizophrenia: emerging preclinical and clinical evidence". Neuroscience 191: 78–90. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.06.076. PMID 21756978.
^ Majewska MD, Mienville JM, Vicini S (August 1988). "Neurosteroid pregnenolone sulfate antagonizes electrophysiological responses to GABA in neurons". Neuroscience Letters 90 (3): 279–84. PMID 3138576.
^ Wu FS, Gibbs TT, Farb DH (September 1991). "Pregnenolone sulfate: a positive allosteric modulator at the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor". Molecular Pharmacology 40 (3): 333–6. PMID 1654510.
^ Wagner TF, Loch S, Lambert S, et al. (December 2008). "Transient receptor potential M3 channels are ionotropic steroid receptors in pancreatic beta cells". Nature Cell Biology 10 (12): 1421–30. doi: 10.1038/ncb1801. PMID 18978782.