Androstenedione is a prohormone from which steroids such as estrone or testosterone are formed in the organism. “Andros” means “the man” in Greek, the chemical structure is derived from the word ending “dion”.
Both word syllables indicate that it is a sex hormone that has a masculinizing (i.e. androgenic) effect and that belongs to the ketones, which in turn are substances that connect an oxygen atom to a carbon atom through a double bond.
Androstenedione is the precursor to various syntheses of hormones. The concentration of the pro-hormone in the blood has its highest value in the morning and is subject to greater fluctuations during the day. The hormone release is different and depends e.g. B. in the woman from her cycle.
What is androstenedione?
Most hormones have an influence on a person's sex life, emotions and behavior, but they are also important messenger substances that keep the organism in balance. They are released directly into the blood and influence biological processes, including growth and stress reactions.
With the help of cholesterol, hormones are formed that have a steroid structure and a side chain. These are called steroid hormones and form the sex hormones of the gonads and the corticosteroids of the adrenal cortex. They occupy receptors inside the cell and bind, among other things. a. of estrogens and androgens.
The latter are both natural and synthetic hormones that cause the growth of male sexual characteristics and also generally have an androgenic effect. An important male sex hormone is z. B. Testosterone, which is a target cell formed from other hormones and is responsible for the male appearance and behavior.
Androstenedione also belongs to the group of these androgens. It is a steroid that is chemically and structurally similar to testosterone and is an intermediate in estradiobiosynthesis and testosterone formation. It is formed in the adrenal cortex and gonads, in men in the testes, in women first in the theca cell layer, then in the ovaries and in the adrenal glands. About ten percent of androstenedione is also formed peripherally through conversion from dehydroepiandrosterone, i.e. from a steroid hormone that is most common in the human organism.
Function, effect & tasks
The androgenic effect determines z. B. male attributes such as a lot of body hair or an increase in total muscle mass, but also causes other side effects in women.
A large proportion of testosterone in the female body is formed from androstenedione and, if there is an increased release, it can lead to baldness, reduced breast development, infertility, increased production in the sebum glands, a deeper voice, acne or the enlargement of the clitoris or even the formation of one Pseudopenis, while the internal genitals are female. Other effects can include the formation of cavities in the ovaries or general menstrual disorders.
The reasons for this are different. Increased values can e.g. B. arise due to obesity, express themselves in particular as fat deposits in the abdomen and lumbar region. This leads to an increased output of insulin and thus to an increase in androgens and thus also in androstenedione, since these hormones are stimulated by insulin. Under these circumstances, the tissue no longer responds to insulin, so the pancreas releases all the more insulin as a countermeasure. This mechanism is called hyperinsulinism.
Education, occurrence, properties & optimal values
Androstenedione is a lipophilic steroid hormone. It has a carbon chain made up of nineteen carbon atoms. The androstenedione concentration is similar in young women and men. In women who are premenopausal, the concentration drops by fifty percent after the oophorectomy, in women who are postmenopausal by 20 percent.
As a biosynthetic precursor to estrone, androstenedione is converted into estrone in the fatty tissue and in the granulosa cell layer of the follicle with the help of the enzyme aromatase. It can be used together with testosterone as part of a primary diagnosis of a disturbed androgen balance. The androstenedione level can also be increased by drugs that stimulate synthesis with androgens or adrenal cortical androgens.
Such drugs can also lower the level of androstenedione, e.g. B. by a serum such as glucocorticoids or by various ovulation inhibitors. Since the measured values differ widely over the day, show the highest value in the morning, but which fluctuates greatly during the day, blood is taken in the early follicle maturation phase.
The androstenedione level can also change due to other causes. B. higher in ovarian stromal hyperthecosis, in obesity, in tumors that produce androgens, in hirsutism or in Cushing's syndrome. It decreases with adrenal cortical or ovarian insufficiency and sickle cell anemia.
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Diseases & Disorders
The exact function of androstenedione has not yet been adequately researched, but the pro-hormone is still used in synthetic production. So it should z. B. be an effective anti-aging product and supposedly counteract the aging of the skin.
Androstenedione is also marketed as a dietary supplement in some countries and has some fans, especially in the field of competitive sports, as it is used to stimulate increased testosterone formation and thus lead to an increase in athletic performance and an increase in muscle mass, although this has not been proven.
On the contrary, androstenedione was put on the doping list by the Olympic Committee because of its multiple side effects and has been banned by many sports organizations. Such risks are e.g. B. high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, impotence, prostate cancer and the development of hormone-dependent tumors.