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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Dec;83(1-5):219-26.

Evolution of oestrogen functions in vertebrates.

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  • 1Institute of Physiology, Centre of Milk and Food Research Weihenstephan, Technical University Munich, Weihenstephaner Berg 3, D-85354 Freising, Germany. lange@wzw.tum.de


Steroidal oestrogens have been isolated from marine and terrestrial animals representative of all major classes of vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. In general, oestrogens are responsible for most features characteristic of the female sex of a species, such as metabolic, behavioural and morphological changes during the stages of reproduction; they also support several processes in males. The evolution of the hormonal system always involves both the ligand and its sites of interaction. In the case of oestrogens, the steroid producing enzymes, mainly the aromatase complex, and the oestrogen receptor belong together within their co-evolution. The finding of oestrogenic steroids, the more recent identification of aromatase and receptor genes and their expression fit together, thereby confirming the importance for all vertebrates. Within the present paper, the evolution of the physiological functions of oestrogens from oviparous vertebrates to Eutherian mammals, oestrogen biosynthesis, metabolization and signalling pathways will be reviewed in detail.

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