Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) treatment is effective in the prevention of various genetic and induced disorders of mice and rats. In studies designed to define some of the basic mechanisms that underline the beneficial chemopreventive effects exerted by the action of this steroid, we found that the liver undergoes profound changes that result in: (i) hepatomegaly; (ii) color change from pink to mahogany; (iii) proliferation of peroxisomes; (iv) increased cross-sectional area and volume density of peroxisomes; (v) increased or decreased number of mitochondria per cell; (vi) decreased mitochondrial cross-sectional area; (vii) marked induction of the peroxisomal bifunctional protein enoyl-CoA hydratase/ 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase; (viii) increased activities of enoyl-CoA hydratase and other peroxisomal enzymes assayed in this study, viz. catalase, carnitine acetyl-CoA transferase, carnitine octanoyl-CoA transferase, and urate oxidase; and (ix) increased activity of mitochondrial carnitine palmitoyl-CoA transferase. In addition, feeding DHEA to mice resulted in increased plasma cholesterol levels in two strains of mice evaluated in this study, and either slightly decreased or markedly increased plasma triglyceride levels, depending on the strain. Whether liver peroxisome proliferation, induced by DHEA feeding to mice and rats, plays a role in the chemopreventive effects elicited by this steroid remains to be established.
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