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Androgen

Androgen

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Androgen, also called androgenic hormone or testoid, is the generic term for any natural or synthetic compound, usually a steroid hormone
Steroid hormone
A steroid hormone is a steroid that acts as a hormone. Steroid hormones can be grouped into five groups by the receptors to which they bind: glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, androgens, estrogens, and progestogens...

, that stimulates or controls the development and maintenance of male characteristics in vertebrate
Vertebrate
Vertebrates are animals that are members of the subphylum Vertebrata . Vertebrates are the largest group of chordates, with currently about 58,000 species described. Vertebrates include the jawless fishes, bony fishes, sharks and rays, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds...

s by binding to androgen receptor
Androgen receptor
The androgen receptor , also known as NR3C4 , is a type of nuclear receptor that is activated by binding of either of the androgenic hormones testosterone or dihydrotestosterone in the cytoplasm and then translocating into the nucleus...

s. This includes the activity of the accessory male
Male
Male refers to the biological sex of an organism, or part of an organism, which produces small mobile gametes, called spermatozoa. Each spermatozoon can fuse with a larger female gamete or ovum, in the process of fertilization...

 sex organ
Sex organ
A sex organ, or primary sexual characteristic, as narrowly defined, is any of the anatomical parts of the body which are involved in sexual reproduction and constitute the reproductive system in a complex organism; flowers are the reproductive organs of flowering plants, cones are the reproductive...

s and development of male secondary sex characteristic
Secondary sex characteristic
Secondary sex characteristics are features that distinguish the two sexes of a species, but that are not directly part of the reproductive system. They are believed to be the product of sexual selection for traits which give an individual an advantage over its rivals in courtship and aggressive...

s. Androgens were first discovered in 1936. Androgens are also the original anabolic steroid
Anabolic steroid
Anabolic steroids, technically known as anabolic-androgen steroids or colloquially simply as "steroids", are drugs that mimic the effects of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone in the body. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which results in the buildup of cellular tissue ,...

s and the precursor of all estrogen
Estrogen
Estrogens , oestrogens , or œstrogens, are a group of compounds named for their importance in the estrous cycle of humans and other animals. They are the primary female sex hormones. Natural estrogens are steroid hormones, while some synthetic ones are non-steroidal...

s, the female
Female
Female is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces non-mobile ova .- Defining characteristics :The ova are defined as the larger gametes in a heterogamous reproduction system, while the smaller, usually motile gamete, the spermatozoon, is produced by the male...

 sex hormones. The primary and most well-known androgen is testosterone
Testosterone
Testosterone is a steroid hormone from the androgen group and is found in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands...

, other less important androgens are dihydrotestosterone
Dihydrotestosterone
Dihydrotestosterone is an androgen or male sex hormone. The enzyme 5α-reductase synthesises DHT in the prostate, testes, hair follicles, and adrenal glands...

 and androstenedione
Androstenedione
Androstenedione is a 19-carbon steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands and the gonads as an intermediate step in the biochemical pathway that produces the androgen testosterone and the estrogens estrone and estradiol.-Synthesis:Androstenedione is the common precursor of male and female sex...

.

Types



A subset of androgens, adrenal androgens, includes any of the 19-carbon steroids synthesized by the adrenal cortex
Adrenal cortex
Situated along the perimeter of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex mediates the stress response through the production of mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids, including aldosterone and cortisol respectively. It is also a secondary site of androgen synthesis.-Layers:Notably, the reticularis in...

, the outer portion of the adrenal gland
Adrenal gland
In mammals, the adrenal glands are endocrine glands that sit atop the kidneys; in humans, the right suprarenal gland is triangular shaped, while the left suprarenal gland is semilunar shaped...

 (zonula reticularis—innermost region of the adrenal cortex), that function as weak steroids or steroid precursors, including dehydroepiandrosterone
Dehydroepiandrosterone
5-Dehydroepiandrosterone is a 19-carbon endogenous steroid hormone. It is the major secretory steroidal product of the adrenal glands and is also produced by the gonads and the brain. DHEA is the most abundant circulating steroid in humans....

 (DHEA), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), and androstenedione.

Besides testosterone, other androgens include:
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
    Dehydroepiandrosterone
    5-Dehydroepiandrosterone is a 19-carbon endogenous steroid hormone. It is the major secretory steroidal product of the adrenal glands and is also produced by the gonads and the brain. DHEA is the most abundant circulating steroid in humans....

     (DHEA): a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal cortex
    Adrenal cortex
    Situated along the perimeter of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex mediates the stress response through the production of mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids, including aldosterone and cortisol respectively. It is also a secondary site of androgen synthesis.-Layers:Notably, the reticularis in...

     from cholesterol
    Cholesterol
    Cholesterol is a complex isoprenoid. Specifically, it is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes and is transported in the blood plasma of all mammals. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes...

    . It is the primary precursor of natural estrogen
    Estrogen
    Estrogens , oestrogens , or œstrogens, are a group of compounds named for their importance in the estrous cycle of humans and other animals. They are the primary female sex hormones. Natural estrogens are steroid hormones, while some synthetic ones are non-steroidal...

    s. DHEA
    Dehydroepiandrosterone
    5-Dehydroepiandrosterone is a 19-carbon endogenous steroid hormone. It is the major secretory steroidal product of the adrenal glands and is also produced by the gonads and the brain. DHEA is the most abundant circulating steroid in humans....

     is also called dehydroisoandrosterone or dehydroandrosterone.

  • Androstenedione
    Androstenedione
    Androstenedione is a 19-carbon steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands and the gonads as an intermediate step in the biochemical pathway that produces the androgen testosterone and the estrogens estrone and estradiol.-Synthesis:Androstenedione is the common precursor of male and female sex...

     (Andro): an androgenic steroid produced by the testes, adrenal cortex
    Adrenal cortex
    Situated along the perimeter of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex mediates the stress response through the production of mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids, including aldosterone and cortisol respectively. It is also a secondary site of androgen synthesis.-Layers:Notably, the reticularis in...

    , and ovaries. While androstenedione
    Androstenedione
    Androstenedione is a 19-carbon steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands and the gonads as an intermediate step in the biochemical pathway that produces the androgen testosterone and the estrogens estrone and estradiol.-Synthesis:Androstenedione is the common precursor of male and female sex...

    s are converted metabolically to testosterone
    Testosterone
    Testosterone is a steroid hormone from the androgen group and is found in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands...

     and other androgens, they are also the parent structure of estrone
    Estrone
    Estrone is an estrogenic hormone secreted by the ovary as well as adipose tissue.Estrone is one of several natural estrogens, which also include estriol and estradiol...

    . Use of androstenedione as an athletic or body building supplement
    Bodybuilding supplement
    Bodybuilding supplements are dietary supplements commonly used by those involved in bodybuilding and athletics. Bodybuilding supplements may be used to replace meals, enhance weight gain, promote weight loss or improve athletic performance...

     has been banned by the International Olympic Committee
    International Olympic Committee
    The International Olympic Committee is an international corporation based in Lausanne, Switzerland, created by Pierre de Coubertin on 23 June 1894 with Demetrios Vikelas as its first president...

     as well as other sporting organizations.

  • Androstenediol
    Androstenediol
    Androstenediol may refer to:* 4-Androstenediol, the steroid androgen that can be converted to testosterone* 5-Androstenediol, steroid* Methandriol, a synthetic androstenediol derivative...

    : the steroid metabolite
    Metabolite
    Metabolites are the intermediates and products of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually restricted to small molecules. A primary metabolite is directly involved in normal growth, development, and reproduction. Alcohol is an example of a primary metabolite produced in large-scale by industrial...

     that is thought to act as the main regulator of gonadotropin
    Gonadotropin
    Gonadotropins are protein hormones secreted by gonadotrope cells of the pituitary gland of vertebrates. This is a family of proteins, which include the mammalian hormones follitropin , lutropin , placental chorionic gonadotropins hCG and eCG and chorionic gonadotropin , as well as at least two...

     secretion.

  • Androsterone
    Androsterone
    Androsterone is a steroid hormone with weak androgenic activity. It is made in the liver from the metabolism of testosterone. Its beta-isomer is Epiandrosterone.-History:...

    : a chemical by-product created during the breakdown of androgens, or derived from progesterone
    Progesterone
    Progesterone also known as P4 is a C-21 steroid hormone involved in the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy and embryogenesis of humans and other species...

    , that also exerts minor masculinising effects, but with one-seventh the intensity of testosterone. It is found in approximately equal amounts in the plasma
    Blood plasma
    Blood plasma is the straw-colored liquid component of blood in which the blood cells in whole blood are normally suspended. It makes up about 55% of the total blood volume. It is the intravascular fluid part of extracellular fluid...

     and urine
    Urine
    Urine is a typically sterile liquid by-product of the body that is secreted by the kidneys through a process called urination and excreted through the urethra. Cellular metabolism generates numerous by-products, many rich in nitrogen, that require elimination from the bloodstream...

     of both males and females.

  • Dihydrotestosterone
    Dihydrotestosterone
    Dihydrotestosterone is an androgen or male sex hormone. The enzyme 5α-reductase synthesises DHT in the prostate, testes, hair follicles, and adrenal glands...

     (DHT): a metabolite
    Metabolite
    Metabolites are the intermediates and products of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually restricted to small molecules. A primary metabolite is directly involved in normal growth, development, and reproduction. Alcohol is an example of a primary metabolite produced in large-scale by industrial...

     of testosterone
    Testosterone
    Testosterone is a steroid hormone from the androgen group and is found in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands...

    , and a more potent androgen than testosterone
    Testosterone
    Testosterone is a steroid hormone from the androgen group and is found in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands...

     in that it binds more strongly to androgen receptor
    Androgen receptor
    The androgen receptor , also known as NR3C4 , is a type of nuclear receptor that is activated by binding of either of the androgenic hormones testosterone or dihydrotestosterone in the cytoplasm and then translocating into the nucleus...

    s. It is produced in the adrenal cortex
    Adrenal cortex
    Situated along the perimeter of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex mediates the stress response through the production of mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids, including aldosterone and cortisol respectively. It is also a secondary site of androgen synthesis.-Layers:Notably, the reticularis in...

    .

Testes formation


During mammalian development, the gonads are at first capable of becoming either ovaries
Ovary
The ovary is an ovum-producing reproductive organ, often found in pairs as part of the vertebrate female reproductive system. Ovaries in anatomically female individuals are analogous to testes in anatomically male individuals, in that they are both gonads and endocrine glands.-Human anatomy:Ovaries...

 or testes. In humans, starting at about week 4 the gonadal rudiments are present within the intermediate mesoderm
Intermediate mesoderm
Intermediate mesenchyme or intermediate mesoderm is a type of mesoderm that is located between the paraxial mesoderm and the lateral plate.It develops into the part of the urogenital system * forms of urogenital system...

 adjacent to the developing kidneys. At about week 6, epithelial sex cords develop within the forming testes and incorporate the germ cell
Germ cell
A germ cell is any biological cell that gives rise to the gametes of an organism that reproduces sexually. In many animals, the germ cells originate near the gut of an embryo and migrate to the developing gonads. There, they undergo cell division of two types, mitosis and meiosis, followed by...

s as they migrate into the gonads. In males, certain Y chromosome
Y chromosome
The Y chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in most mammals, including humans. In mammals, it contains the gene SRY, which triggers testis development if present. The human Y chromosome is composed of about 60 million base pairs...

 genes, particularly SRY
SRY
SRY is a sex-determining gene on the Y chromosome in the therians .This intronless gene encodes a transcription factor that is a member of the SOX gene family of DNA-binding proteins...

, control development of the male phenotype, including conversion of the early bipotential gonad into testes. In males, the sex cords fully invade the developing gonads.

Androgen production


The mesoderm-derived epithelial
Epithelium
Epithelium is one of the four basic types of animal tissue, along with connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue. Epithelial tissues line the cavities and surfaces of structures throughout the body, and also form many glands. Functions of epithelial cells include secretion, selective...

 cells of the sex cords in developing testes become the Sertoli cells which will function to support sperm cell formation. A minor population of non-epithelial cells appear between the tubules by week 8 of human fetal development. These are Leydig cells. Soon after they differentiate, Leydig cells begin to produce androgens.

Androgen effects


The androgens function as paracrine
Paracrine signalling
Paracrine signalling is a form of cell signalling in which the target cell is near the signal-releasing cell.-Local action:Some signalling molecules degrade very quickly, limiting the scope of their effectiveness to the immediate surroundings...

 hormone
Hormone
A hormone is a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism. Only a small amount of hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one...

s required by the Sertoli cells in order to support sperm production. They are also required for masculinization of the developing male fetus (including penis and scrotum formation). Under the influence of androgens, remnants of the mesonephron, the Wolffian ducts, develop into the epididymis
Epididymis
The epididymis is part of the male reproductive system and is present in all male amniotes. It is a narrow, tightly-coiled tube connecting the efferent ducts from the rear of each testicle to its vas deferens. A similar, but probably non-homologous, structure is found in cartilaginous...

, vas deferens
Vas deferens
The vas deferens , also called ductus deferens, , is part of the male anatomy of many vertebrates; they transport sperm from the epididymis in anticipation of ejaculation....

 and seminal vesicles. This action of androgens is supported by a hormone from Sertoli cells, MIH (Müllerian inhibitory hormone), which prevents the embryonic Müllerian ducts from developing into fallopian tubes and other female reproductive tract tissues in male embryos. MIH and androgens cooperate to allow for the normal movement of testes into the scrotum.

Early regulation


Before the production of the pituitary hormone luteinizing hormone
Luteinizing hormone
Luteinizing hormone is a hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland. In females, an acute rise of LH called the LH surge triggers ovulation and development of the corpus luteum. In males, where LH had also been called interstitial cell-stimulating hormone , it stimulates Leydig cell...

 (LH) by the embryo starting at about weeks 11–12, human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) promotes the differentiation of Leydig cells and their production of androgens at week 8. Androgen action in target tissues often involves conversion of testosterone to 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT
Dihydrotestosterone
Dihydrotestosterone is an androgen or male sex hormone. The enzyme 5α-reductase synthesises DHT in the prostate, testes, hair follicles, and adrenal glands...

).

Spermatogenesis


During puberty, androgen, LH and FSH production increase and the sex cords hollow out, forming the seminiferous tubules, and the germ cells start to differentiate into sperm. Throughout adulthood, androgens and FSH
FSH
FSH may refer to:* Follicle-stimulating hormone* Fox Sports Houston, a regional Fox Sports Net affiliate station for the Houston, Texas area* Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy* International Civil Aviation Organisation code for Flash Airlines...

 cooperatively act on Sertoli cells in the testes to support sperm production. Exogenous androgen supplements can be used as a male contraceptive
Male contraceptive
Male contraceptives include condoms, withdrawal , and vasectomy. In other animals, castration is commonly used for contraception...

. Elevated androgen levels caused by use of androgen supplements can inhibit production of LH and block production of endogenous androgens by Leydig cells. Without the locally high levels of androgens in testes due to androgen production by Leydig cells, the seminiferous tubules can degenerate resulting in infertility. For this reason, many transdermal androgen patches are applied to the scrotum.

Inhibition of fat deposition


Males typically have less body fat than females. Recent results indicate that androgens inhibit the ability of some fat cells to store lipids by blocking a signal transduction pathway that normally supports adipocyte function. Also, androgens, but not estrogens, increase beta adrenergic receptor
Adrenergic receptor
The adrenergic receptors are a class of metabotropic G protein-coupled receptors that are targets of the catecholamines, especially noradrenaline and adrenaline ....

s while decreasing alpha adrenergic receptors- which results in increased levels of epinephrine/ norepinephrine due to lack of alpha-2 receptor negative feedback and decreased fat accumulation due to epinephrine/ norepinephrine then acting on lipolysis-inducing beta receptors.

Muscle mass


Males typically have more skeletal muscle
Skeletal muscle
Skeletal muscle is a form of striated muscle tissue existing under control of the somatic nervous system- i.e. it is voluntarily controlled. It is one of three major muscle types, the others being cardiac and smooth muscle...

 mass than females. Androgens promote the enlargement of skeletal muscle cells and probably act in a coordinated manner to function by acting on several cell types in skeletal muscle tissue. One type of cell that conveys hormone signals to generating muscle is the myoblast
Myoblast
A myoblast is a type of embryonic progenitor cell that gives rise to muscle cells .The muscle cells can be skeletal muscle, smooth muscle, and cardiac muscle....

. Higher androgen levels lead to increased expression of androgen receptor. Fusion of myoblasts generates myotubes, in a process that is linked to androgen receptor levels.

Brain


Circulating levels of androgens can influence human behavior because some neuron
Neuron
A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information by electrical and chemical signaling. Chemical signaling occurs via synapses, specialized connections with other cells. Neurons connect to each other to form networks. Neurons are the core components of the nervous...

s are sensitive to steroid hormones. Androgen levels have been implicated in the regulation of human aggression
Aggression
In psychology, as well as other social and behavioral sciences, aggression refers to behavior between members of the same species that is intended to cause humiliation, pain, or harm. Ferguson and Beaver defined aggressive behavior as "Behavior which is intended to increase the social dominance of...

 and libido. Indeed, androgens are capable of altering the structure of the brain in several species, including mice, rats, and primates, producing sex differences. Numerous reports have outlined that androgens alone are capable of altering the structure of the brain, however it is difficult to identify which alterations in neuroanatomy stem from androgens or estrogens, because of their potential for conversion.

Insensitivity to androgen in humans



Reduced ability of a XY karyotype
Karyotype
A karyotype is the number and appearance of chromosomes in the nucleus of an eukaryotic cell. The term is also used for the complete set of chromosomes in a species, or an individual organism.p28...

 fetus to respond to androgens can result in one of several conditions, including infertility and several forms of intersex
Intersex
Intersex, in humans and other animals, is the presence of intermediate or atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish female from male...

 conditions.

Miscellaneous

  • Chemical or surgical ablation
    Ablation
    Ablation is removal of material from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes. This occurs in spaceflight during ascent and atmospheric reentry, glaciology, medicine, and passive fire protection.-Spaceflight:...

    can be used as an effective therapy in prostate cancer
    Prostate cancer
    Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Most prostate cancers are slow growing; however, there are cases of aggressive prostate cancers. The cancer cells may metastasize from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly...

    . See androgen deprivation therapy
    Androgen deprivation therapy
    Androgen deprivation therapy , a treatment for prostate cancer that reduces the production or effect of androgen hormones, eg. testosterone, which many prostate cancers depend on. The side-effects make it controversial in some cases. There is an increased risk of osteoporosis, and possibly...

    .

See also

  • List of steroid abbreviations
  • Androgenic hair
    Androgenic hair
    Androgenic hair, colloquially body hair, is the terminal hair that develops on the body during and after puberty. It is differentiated from the head hair and less visible vellus hair, which are much finer and lighter in color. The growth of androgenic hair is related to the level of androgens in...

  • Andrology
    Andrology
    Andrology is the medical specialty that deals with male health, particularly relating to the problems of the male reproductive system and urological problems that are unique to men. It is the counterpart to gynaecology, which deals with medical issues which are specific to the female reproductive...

  • Anti-androgen
    Antiandrogen
    Antiandrogens, or androgen antagonists, first discovered in the 1960s, prevent androgens from expressing their biological effects on responsive tissues. Antiandrogens alter the androgen pathway by blocking the appropriate receptors, competing for binding sites on the cell's surface, or affecting...

  • Endocrine system
    Endocrine system
    In physiology, the endocrine system is a system of glands, each of which secretes a type of hormone directly into the bloodstream to regulate the body. The endocrine system is in contrast to the exocrine system, which secretes its chemicals using ducts. It derives from the Greek words "endo"...