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Am J Med Genet. 1996 May 3;63(1):223-30.

Phenotypic classification of male pseudohermaphroditism due to steroid 5 alpha-reductase 2 deficiency.

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Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of Lübeck, Germany.


Conversion of testosterone (T) to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in genital tissue is catalysed by the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase 2, which is encoded by the SRD5A2 gene. The potent androgen DHT is required for full masculinization of the external genitalia. Mutations of the SRD5A2 gene inhibit enzyme activity, diminish DHT formation, and hence cause masculinization defects of varying degree. The classical syndrome, formerly described as pseudovaginal perineoscrotal hypospadias, is characterized by a predominantly female phenotype at birth and significant virilization without gynecomastia at puberty. We investigated nine patients with steroid 5 alpha-reductase 2 deficiency (SRD). Phenotypes, which were classified according to the severity of the masculinization defect, varied between completely female (SRD type 5), predominantly female (SRD type 4), ambiguous (SRD type 3), predominantly male with micropenis and hypospadias (SRD type 2), and completely male without overt signs of undermasculinization (SRD type 1). T/DHT-ratios were highly increased ( > 50) in the classical syndrome (SRD type 5), but variable in the less severe affected patients (SRD types 1-4) (14-35). Mutations in the SRD5A2 gene had been characterized using PCR-SSCP analysis and direct DNA sequencing. A small deletion was encountered in two patients, while all other patients had single base mutations which result in amino acid substitutions. We conclude that phenotypes may vary widely in patients with SRD5A2 gene mutations spanning the whole range from completely female to normal male without distinctive clinical signs of the disease. Hence, steroid 5 alpha-reductase deficiency should be considered not only in sex reversed patients with female or ambiguous phenotypes, but also in those with mild symptoms of undermasculinization as encountered in patients with hypospadias and/or micropenis. A classification based on the severity of the masculinization defect may be used for correlation of phenotypes with enzyme activities and genotypes, and for comparisons of phenotypes between different patients as the basis for clinical decisions to be made in patients with pseudohermaphroditism due to steroid 5 alpha-reductase 2 deficiency.

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