The concentrations of the adrenal steroids dehydroepiandrosterone (DHA), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHAS), and ∆4-androstenedione (∆4-A) have been measured by RIA before and after sexual maturation in plasma of rodents, domestic animals, and primates to determine whether these species exhibit an adrenarchal process comparable to man. The average concentrations of DHA and DHAS were less than 60 ng/dl and 5 μg/dl, respectively, in plasma of sexually mature rodents and domestic animals, and a significant increase in the plasma DHA level after sexual maturation was seen only in the rabbit and dog. The concentrations of DHA, DHAS, and ∆4-A in 21 rhesus monkeys from 0–3 yr of age were 2021 ± 235 ng/dl (mean ± SE), 357 ± 60 μg/dl, and 107 ± 9 ng/dl, respectively, and did not increase during sexual maturation. By contrast, DHA, DHAS, and ∆4-A levels in plasma of chimpanzees were 5.9-fold, 3.3-fold, and 4.8-fold greater, respectively, in 7- to 22- compared to 0- to 3-yr-old animals. Temporally, the increase in DHA levels in the chimpanzee is apparent at 5 yr and this precedes the increase in gonadal steroids, as is characteristic of human adrenarche. It is apparent that adrenal androgen levels and their developmental patterns differ markedly among species, and that among the species examined, only the chimpanzee exhibits an adrenarche comparable to that of man.
ASJC Scopus subject areas