Feed-forward control of prostate growth: Dihydrotestosterone induces expression of its own biosynthetic enzyme, steroid 5α-reductase

Fredrick W. George, David W. Russell, Jean D. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Dihydrotestosterone, the primary mediator of prostate growth, is synthesized in target tissues from the circulating androgen testosterone through the action of steroid 5α-reductase (EC The expression of 5α-reductase and the level of 5α-reductase messenger RNA in rat ventral prostate are regulated by androgens. To determine whether this control is mediated by dihydrotestosterone or testosterone, we investigated the effect of finasteride, a potent inhibitor of steroid 5α-reductase, on the expression of 5α-reductase in the prostate. The administration of finasteride to intact rats for 7 days caused a 55% decrease in prostate weight and an 87% decrease in 5α-reductase enzyme activity. Furthermore, the restoration of prostate growth after castration and the enhancement in 5α-reductase enzyme activity and 5α-reductase messenger RNA level by testosterone administration were blocked by finasteride, whereas the inhibitor had no effect on dihydrotestosterone-mediated increases in 5α-reductase activity or messenger RNAlevel. These findings indicate that dihydrotestosterone itself controls prostate growth and 5α-reductase activity. They further suggest that prostate growth is controlled by a feed-forward mechanism by which formation of trace amounts of dihydrotestosterone induces 5α-reductase, thereby increasing dihydrotestosterone synthesis and triggering a positive developmental cascade. (.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8044-8047
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - 1991


  • 4-azasterold inhibitors
  • Androgen action
  • Testoterone metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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