Biosynthesis and metabolism of steroids in molluscs.
ABSTRACT Molluscs are the second most diverse animal group, they are ecologically important and they are considered excellent indicators of ecosystem health. Some species have been widely used in pollution biomonitoring programs; however, their endocrinology is still poorly known. Despite some studies reporting the presence of (vertebrate-type) steroids in molluscs, information regarding enzymatic pathways involved in steroid synthesis and further catabolism of those steroids is still fragmentary. Regarding steroidogenesis, a number of excellent studies were performed in the 70s using different radio-labelled steroid precursors and detecting the formation of different metabolites. But, since then a long gap of research exist until the late 90s when the 'endocrine disruption' issue raised the need of a better knowledge of mollusc (and invertebrate) endocrinology in order to assess alterations caused by pollutants. Here we summarize past and recent studies dealing with steroid biosynthesis and metabolism in different mollusc species. Most of these studies suggest the involvement of steroids in mollusc reproduction. However, the knowledge is still fragmentary and many questions remain to be answered.