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Menopause. 2013 Mar;20(3):322-8. doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e318273a070.

Modulation of higher-primate adrenal androgen secretion with estrogen-alone or estrogen-plus-progesterone intervention.

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Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA.



Circulating adrenal steroids rise during the menopausal transition in most middle-aged women and may contribute to differences in between-women symptoms and ultimate health outcomes. However, the mechanisms for this shift in adrenal steroid production in middle-aged women are not known. This study aims to determine whether hormone therapy (HT) for 1 year can modulate adrenal androgen production.


Younger (9.8 [0.4] years, n = 20) and older (22.7 [0.4] years, n = 37) female laboratory macaques were ovariectomized, and each group was treated with different regimens of HT for up to 1 year. Changes in adrenal histology and circulating adrenal androgens were monitored after estrogen-alone (E) or estrogen plus progesterone (E + P) treatment, and these changes were compared with the same measures in similarly aged animals given vehicle.


Zona reticularis area, serum dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) were higher in younger vehicle-treated animals compared with older vehicle-treated animals (P < 0.02). Both E and E + P treatments decreased circulating DHEAS in the younger group (P < 0.05). Although E treatment also decreased DHEAS in the older group, this was not statistically significant. In contrast, E + P treatment in the older group resulted in a rise in DHEAS over vehicle, which was significantly higher than the results of E treatment (P < 0.01). Circulating concentrations of DHEA exhibited similar trends, but these changes did not reach statistical significance.


These data demonstrate that intervention with ovarian steroids can modulate adrenal androgen production in female higher primates and that both animal age and type of HT regimen determine adrenal response.

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