Fetal death in mice lacking 5α-reductase type 1 caused by estrogen excess

Mala S. Mahendroo, Kristine M. Cala, Charles P. Landrum, David W. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Female mice deficient in steroid 5α-reductase type I have a decreased litter size. The average litter in homozygous deficient females is 2.7 pups vs. 8.0 pups in wild type controls. Oogenesis, fertilization, implantation, and placental morphology appear normal in the mutant animals. Fetal loss occurs between gestation days 10.75 and 11.0 commensurate with a midpregnancy surge in placental androgen production and an induction of 5α-reductase type 1 expression in the decidua of wild type mice. Plasma levels of androstenedione and testosterone are 2- to 3-fold higher on gestation day 9, and estradiol levels are chronically elevated by 2-to 3-fold throughout early and midgestation in the knockout mice. Administration of an estrogen receptor antagonist or inhibitors of aromatase reverse the high rate of fetal death in the mutant mice, and estradiol treatment of wild type pregnant mice causes fetal wastage. The results suggest that in the deficient mice, a failure to 5α-reduce androgens leads to their conversion to estrogens, which in turn causes fetal death in midgestation. These findings indicate that the 5α- reduction of androgens in female animals plays a crucial role in guarding against estrogen toxicity during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-927
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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