Metabolism of DHEA by cytochromes P450 in rat and human liver microsomal fractions

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2001 May 15;389(2):278-87. doi: 10.1006/abbi.2001.2341.


Administration of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) to rodents produces many unique biological responses, some of which may be due to metabolism of DHEA to more biologically active products. In the current study, DHEA metabolism was studied using human and rat liver microsomal fractions. In both species, DHEA was extensively metabolized to multiple products; formation of these products was potently inhibited in both species by miconazole, demonstrating a principal role for cytochrome P450. In the rat, use of P450 form-selective inhibitors suggested the participation of P4501A and 3A forms in DHEA metabolism. Human liver samples displayed interindividual differences in that one of five subjects metabolized DHEA to a much greater extent than the others. This difference correlated with the level of P4503A activity present in the human liver samples. For one subject, troleandomycin inhibited hepatic microsomal metabolism of DHEA by 78%, compared to 81% inhibition by miconazole, suggesting the importance of P4503A in these reactions. Form-selective inhibitors of P4502D6 and P4502E1 had a modest inhibitory effect, suggesting that these forms may also contribute to metabolism of DHEA in humans. Metabolites identified by LC-MS in both species included 16alpha-hydroxy-DHEA, 7alpha-hydroxy-DHEA, and 7-oxo-DHEA. While 16alpha-hydroxy-DHEA appeared to be the major metabolite produced in rat, the major metabolite produced in humans was a mono-hydroxylated DHEA species, whose position of hydroxylation is unknown.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases*
  • Benzoflavones / pharmacology
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / analogs & derivatives
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / chemistry
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Miconazole / pharmacology
  • Microsomes, Liver / drug effects
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Troleandomycin / pharmacology


  • Benzoflavones
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • alpha-naphthoflavone
  • Miconazole
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Troleandomycin
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating