Localization of sex steroid receptors in human skin

Histol Histopathol. 2004 Apr;19(2):629-36. doi: 10.14670/HH-19.629.


Sex steroid hormones are involved in regulation of skin development and functions as well as in some skin pathological events. To determine the sites of action of estrogens, androgens and progestins, studies have been performed during the recent years to accurately localize receptors for each steroid hormone in human skin. Androgen receptors (AR) have been localized in most keratinocytes in epidermis. In the dermis, AR was detected in about 10% of fibroblasts. In sebaceous glands, AR was observed in both basal cells and sebocytes. In hair follicles, AR expression was restricted to dermal papillar cells. In eccrine sweat glands, only few secretory cells were observed to express AR. Estrogen receptor (ER) alpha was poorly expressing, being restricted to sebocytes. In contrast, ERbeta was found to be highly expressed in the epidermis, sebaceous glands (basal cells and sebocytes) and eccrine sweat glands. In the hair follicle, ERbeta is widely expressed with strong nuclear staining in dermal papilla cells, inner sheath cells, matrix cells and outer sheath cells including the buldge region. Progesterone receptors (PR) staining was found in nuclei of some keratinocytes and in nuclei of basal cells and sebocytes in sebaceous glands. PR nuclear staining was also observed in dermal papilla cells of hair follicles and in eccrine sweat glands. This information on the differential localization of sex steroid receptors in human skin should be of great help for future investigation on the specific role of each steroid on skin and its appendages.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Receptors, Steroid / biosynthesis*
  • Sebaceous Glands / metabolism*
  • Sex Factors
  • Skin / metabolism*


  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Receptors, Steroid