The production, origin and role of dehydroepiandrosterone and Δ 5 androstenediol as androgen prehormones in hirsute women

M. A. Kirschner, S. Sinhamahapatra, I. R. Zucker, Donald (Lynn) Loriaux, E. Nieschiag

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Blood production rates (P(B)) of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and Δ 5 androstenediol (Δ 5 diol) were measured in a group of 22 women with hirsutism. The P(B)(DHEA) averaged 14.9 mg/day (2.5 times normal), and was reflected by differences in plasma DHEA concentrations, when compared with normal women. P(B)Δ 5 diol in the hirsute women averaged 1.27 mg/day and was also 2.5 fold elevated; however, since the metabolic clearance rates of Δ 5 diol were 2 fold elevated, the plasma Δ 5 diol levels in the hirsute group were only slightly high when compared with normal women. The peripheral metabolism of DHEA was investigated by determining its blood transfer constants (p) to Δ 5 diol, androstenedione (Δ 4 dione) and testosterone (T). Circulating DHEA accounted for 1/3 of the total Δ 5 diol produced in normal women, and for 1/2 of the Δ 5 diol produced in the hirsute group. DHEA accounted for 6-7% of Δ 4 dione in both normal and hirsute women. The p(BB)(DHEA→T) averaged 0.4% in normal women and 0.6% in hirsute women, thus accounting for only 82 μg/day or 8% of the total testosterone production in the latter group. Androstenediol metabolism was similarly examined by measuring its p constants to DHEA, Δ 4 dione and T. The p(BB)(Δ 5 diol→T) was 0.023 in normal women, and 0.011 in hirsute women, accounting for only 12-14 μg of P(B)(T) in both groups. Thus, neither DHEA nor Δ 5 diol were significant prehormones of testosterone in normal or hirsute women. Adrenal vein catheterizations revealed DHEA concentrations that were 110 times greater than peripheral blood, whereas ovarian venous effluents contained 6 fold gradients of DHEA. Thus, DHEA overproduction in hirsute women was largely adrenal in origin. Androstenediol gradients were noted in ovarian venous samples in 4 of 5 hirsute women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-189
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1973
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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