Biochemistry : Steroid Hormone Pathways

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for Biochemistry

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

Which of the following is true of steroid hormones?

Possible Answers:

The hormones diffuse across the synaptic cleft 

All of these are true of steroid hormones

They are stored in synaptic vesicles

The hormones bind to receptors on the surface of the target cells

They are derived from a tetracyclic molecule

Correct answer:

They are derived from a tetracyclic molecule

Explanation:

All steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol, which is a lipid molecule with three six-membered rings and one one-membered ring; it is thus tetracyclic.

Since steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol, they are all lipid-soluble and diffuse across the plasma membrane of both their target and their secretory cells. Since they are able to diffuse through the phospholipid bilayer, their receptors are either cytoplasmic or nuclear. Also, they must be synthesized on-demand since they can't be stored in vesicles; the membrane would be unable to contain them. All hormones travel to their target tissues via the blood. Neurotransmitters are the signal molecules that are are released into the synaptic cleft.

Example Question #2 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

Steroids hormones are __________ and peptide hormones are __________.

Possible Answers:

hydrophobic . . . hydrophilic

hydrophilic . . . hydrophobic

hydrophilic . . . hydrophilic

hydrophobic . . . hydrophobic

Correct answer:

hydrophobic . . . hydrophilic

Explanation:

Steroid hormones are nonpolar and hydrophobic, whereas peptide hormones are polar and hydrophilic. This means that the steroid hormones cannot dissolve in water but peptide hormones can dissolve in water. Since they are minimally soluble in water, steroid hormones are carried by special transporters in the blood.

Example Question #3 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

Which of the following are true regarding a steroid hormone?

I. It is synthesized from a precursor molecule that has four hydrocarbon rings

II. It is synthesized only in gonads or adrenal glands

III. It has both nucleoplasmic and cytoplasmic receptors

Possible Answers:

I, II and III

I and II

I only

II only

Correct answer:

I, II and III

Explanation:

Steroid hormones are nonpolar molecules that are synthesized from a cholesterol molecule. Recall that cholesterol is a four membered hydrocarbon ring structure; therefore, steroid hormones are synthesized from a molecule with four rings. Gonads, or sex organs, and adrenal glands are the two main sources of steroid hormones. Gonads produce several sex hormones (such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) that are involved in male and female reproduction. Adrenal glands produce aldosterone, cortisol, and a few inactive sex hormones that are activated in the gonads. Aldosterone is involved in regulation of sodium reabsorption in kidneys and cortisol is involved in metabolism. Recall that steroid hormones can traverse the hydrophobic interior of membranes. This applies for both plasma and nuclear membranes; therefore, steroid hormones can have receptors inside the cytoplasm or nucleoplasm (inside the nucleus).

Example Question #4 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

A pharmacist is trying to develop a drug that mimics a naturally occurring hormone in humans that targets sodium reabsorption in the kidney. He synthesizes a hormone and finds that it completely dissolves in water. What can you conclude about this drug?

Possible Answers:

It will utilize receptors found in the cytoplasm

It will not mimic the action of the naturally occurring hormone

It will have no side effects

It will be mostly made up of cholesterol

Correct answer:

It will not mimic the action of the naturally occurring hormone

Explanation:

The question states that the synthesized hormone is soluble in water; therefore, this must be a polar molecule. The hormone involved in regulation of sodium reabsorption in kidneys is aldosterone. This is a steroid hormone that is synthesized by the adrenal glands. Since the hormone in the question is polar, it cannot be aldosterone. Recall that structure determines function. Thus, if the structures of these two hormones differ significantly, their functions will also differ significantly. Note that steroid hormones are nonpolar and will not dissolve in water. 

Example Question #3 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

Which of the following is true about steroids?

Possible Answers:

Steroids have a common cyclic skeleton, and are only present in animal tissue

The progesterone receptor is found only on plasma membranes

None of these

Aldosterone is a glucocorticoid secreted by the adrenal gland

Correct answer:

None of these

Explanation:

Steroids do have a common cyclic skeleton, but they are not only present in animal tissue; they can be found in plants as well. This cyclic skeleton has a four-ring structure, but they are not aromatic rings. The progesterone receptor is found inside cells, although recent research has also confirmed its presence on plasma membranes. Aldosterone is a mineralocorticoid, not a glucocorticoid, which is indeed secreted by the adrenal gland.

Example Question #6 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

A patient is deficient in the enzyme 21-hydroxylase.  What symptoms might this patient present with?

Possible Answers:

Salt deficiency 

Cortisol deficiency

Androgen deficiency

Excess aldosterone

Excess corticosterone

Correct answer:

Salt deficiency 

Explanation:

If a person is deficient in 21-hydroxlyase, the steroid pathway converting progesterone to deoxycorticosterone will be unable to continue.  Therefore, the final product of that pathway, aldosterone, will not be made.  Aldosterone acts to retain salt, and so a lack of aldosterone causes significant salt loss in patients deficient in 21-hydroxlyase.  

Example Question #7 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

Which of the following hormones will directly regulate transcription without contacting a receptor on the cell surface?

Possible Answers:

Insulin

Prolactin

Cortisol

Oxytocin

Growth hormone

Correct answer:

Cortisol

Explanation:

Steroid hormones, not peptide hormones, travel through the cell membrane and into the nucleus to directly affect transcription of DNA. The only answer choice that is a steroid hormone is cortisol.

Example Question #4 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

Which of the following represents the rate-limiting step in the production of steroid hormones?

Possible Answers:

The overall synthesis of cholesterol, which is mediated by many enzymes

The release of steroid hormones into circulation once they have been biosynthesized within cells

The transfer of cholesterol into the mitochondrial matrix via the enzyme Steroid Acute Regulatory Protein (StAR)

The conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone via the Cholesterol Side-Chain Cleavage Enzyme, which is the precursor of all other steroid hormones

Correct answer:

The transfer of cholesterol into the mitochondrial matrix via the enzyme Steroid Acute Regulatory Protein (StAR)

Explanation:

For this question, we're being asked to identify the rate-limiting step for the creation of steroid hormones. Remember, the rate-limiting step refers to the slowest step of the overall process.

First, it's important to remember that all of the steroid hormones are initially derived from cholesterol. The pathway leading to the biosynthesis of cholesterol is very long and complex, but does not represent the rate-limiting step for steroid hormone production.

Cholesterol is either obtained from the diet, or made in the cytosol of cells. Once here, the cholesterol needs to be translocated into the mitochondrial matrix for further processing. The enzyme StAR (steroid acute regulatory protein) is able to bind cholesterol and, through a poorly understood mechanism, it is able to carry it across the hydrophilic intermembrane space as well as both mitochondrial membranes. Once inside the matrix, an enzyme of the electron transport chain called cholesterol side chain cleavage enzyme () cleaves the side chain of cholesterol to produce the new compound called pregnenolone. Pregnenolone, in turn, is able to be converted into any of the other steroid hormones depending on the enzymes present.

It turns out that the rate-limiting step of this is the translocation of cholesterol into the matrix by StAR.

Example Question #5 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

Which of the following hormones would not bind to a receptor on the surface of a cell?

Possible Answers:

Vasopressin

Adrenocorticotropic hormone

Insulin

Aldosterone

Prolactin

Correct answer:

Aldosterone

Explanation:

Steroid hormones and peptide hormones, due to their structural make up, have different methods of binding to their respective receptors. Steroid hormones are soluble in lipids and can therefore pass directly through the cell membrane to act upon an intracellular receptor. Peptide hormones, on the other hand, can not penetrate the membrane, and must bind to receptors on the surface of the phospholipid bilayer. The only hormone listed that is a steroid and would not bind to a receptor on the cell surface is aldosterone - the rest are peptide hormones.

Example Question #6 : Steroid Hormone Pathways

How do steroid hormone-receptor complexes exert their effects?

I. They enter the nucleus to exert their effect.

II. They bind to DNA responsive elements on the promoter of the genes they up-regulate.

III. They activate G protein-coupled receptors.

IV. They activate transmembrane receptors.

Possible Answers:

II and III

I and II

I and IV

II, III, and IV

I, II, and III

Correct answer:

I and II

Explanation:

Steroid hormones bind to intracellular and not transmembrane receptors.The steroid hormone-receptor complexes then bind to special DNA sequences in genes they regulate.These special DNA sequences are called hormone-responsive elements. Hormone-responsive elements usually reside in the promoter region of genes.

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