Steroid 21-sulfatase activity in human placenta

J. Michael Mathis, John D. Johnston, Paul C. Macdonald, M. Linette Casey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intravenously administered [3H]-deoxycorticosterone sulfate is not metabolized by way of deoxycorticosterone in men or non-pregnant women. Thus, it can be implied that steroid 21-sulfatase is not active in human tissues. On the other hand, evidence has accrued that deoxycorticosterone sulfate is hydrolyzed in human placenta. In the present investigation, we sought to ascertain if steroid 21-sulfatase activity were present in placenta and, if so, to characterize the enzyme activity in this tissue. Steroid 21-sulfatase activity was found to be present in microsome-enriched fractions prepared from human placental tissue; conditions of linearity of the reaction with time and protein concentration were established and the apparent KM of the enzyme for deoxycorticosterone sulfate was 100 μM. Thus, deoxycorticosterone sulfate, which is present in high concentration in plasma of the human fetus, may enter trophoblast wherein it could be hydrolyzed; the deoxycorticosterone formed could be secreted into the maternal circulation. Such a process, together with deoxycorticosterone formation from plasma progesterone in extraadrenal sites, could account for the high concentrations of deoxycorticosterone that are present in plasma of near-term pregnant women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-579
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1983


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