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Endocr Rev. 2014 Oct;35(5):747-94. doi: 10.1210/er.2014-1003. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

Inhibin at 90: from discovery to clinical application, a historical review.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Y.M., J.Z., C.H., W.P.S.W., T.K.W.), Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois 60610; Center for Molecular Innovation and Drug Discovery (R.M., C.H.), Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208; and Department of Molecular Biosciences (N.B.S., K.E.M., T.K.W.), Center for Reproductive Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208.


When it was initially discovered in 1923, inhibin was characterized as a hypophysiotropic hormone that acts on pituitary cells to regulate pituitary hormone secretion. Ninety years later, what we know about inhibin stretches far beyond its well-established capacity to inhibit activin signaling and suppress pituitary FSH production. Inhibin is one of the major reproductive hormones involved in the regulation of folliculogenesis and steroidogenesis. Although the physiological role of inhibin as an activin antagonist in other organ systems is not as well defined as it is in the pituitary-gonadal axis, inhibin also modulates biological processes in other organs through paracrine, autocrine, and/or endocrine mechanisms. Inhibin and components of its signaling pathway are expressed in many organs. Diagnostically, inhibin is used for prenatal screening of Down syndrome as part of the quadruple test and as a biochemical marker in the assessment of ovarian reserve. In this review, we provide a comprehensive summary of our current understanding of the biological role of inhibin, its relationship with activin, its signaling mechanisms, and its potential value as a diagnostic marker for reproductive function and pregnancy-associated conditions.

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