Sex differences in adrenal androgens

Khurram S. Rehman, Bruce R. Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The primate adrenal cortex secretes high levels of 19 carbon (C 19) steroids including dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate (DHEAS), and androstenedione. These steroids exhibit weak androgenic activity but serve as precursors for estrogens and active androgens such as testosterone. Thus, they are commonly known as adrenal androgens. Age-related changes in adrenal androgen production are well-described in humans and other primates. This article discusses the evidence for sex differences in adrenal androgen production in humans and both nonhuman primate and nonprimate animal models, which present varying degrees of sexual dimorphism in adrenal structure and function. Possible mechanisms underlying these gender differences and their relevance to human adrenocortical physiology will be discussed. Although animal and human studies have provided insight into the regulation of adrenal androgen production, the basis of the observed sex differences remains poorly understood. The putative modulation of adrenal androgen production by sex steroids merits further research, as does the possibility of gender-specific differences in adrenocortical zonation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-360
Number of pages12
JournalSeminars in reproductive medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2004


  • Adrenal androgens
  • Gender differences
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Physiology (medical)


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