Abstract

The steroid hormones corticosterone and testosterone are supplied to the central nervous system by endocrine glands, the adrenals and gonads. In contrast, the 3 beta-hydroxy-delta 5-derivatives of cholesterol, pregnenolone and dehydroepiandrosterone, accumulate in the rat brain through mechanisms independent of peripheral sources. Immunohistochemical studies have been performed with specific antibodies to bovine adrenal cytochrome P-450scc, which is involved in cholesterol side-chain cleavage and pregnenolone formation. The enzyme was localized in the white matter throughout the brain. Scarce clusters of cell bodies were also stained in the entorhinal and cingulate cortex and in the olfactory bulb. These observations strongly support the existence of "neurosteroids," which have been posited on the basis of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral studies.