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Baillieres Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 1997 Jun;11(2):229-48.

A critical review of the origin and control of adrenal androgens.

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Department of Endocrinology, St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.


The reticularis and fasciculata zones of the adrenal cortex are the predominant sources of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA-sulphate and contribute directly or indirectly 60-75% of androstenedione and testosterone in women. The specific control of adrenal androgens remains unclear. While ACTH stimulates adrenal androgen secretion, the dissociation of cortisol and androgens occurring during adrenarche and under pathological conditions suggests other factors are involved. Recent studies using human adrenal cells in vitro have demonstrated that the ratio of androgen to cortisol produced is substantially independent of the age and gender of the adrenal, indicating that extra-adrenal factors are of greater importance. beta-Endorphin and joining peptide have been shown to stimulate androgen production in human adrenal cells and to influence ACTH-stimulated steroidogenesis in a manner that promotes adrenal androgen production. The activity of these pro-opiomelanocortin-derived peptides may explain the physiological and pathological dissociations of androgens and cortisol.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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