Progesterone: the forgotten hormone in men?

Aging Male. 2004 Sep;7(3):236-57. doi: 10.1080/13685530400004199.


'Classical' genomic progesterone receptors appear relatively late in phylogenesis, i.e. it is only in birds and mammals that they are detectable. In the different species, they mediate manifold effects regarding the differentiation of target organ functions, mainly in the reproductive system. Surprisingly, we know little about the physiology, endocrinology, and pharmacology of progesterone and progestins in male gender or men respectively, despite the fact that, as to progesterone secretion and serum progesterone levels, there are no great quantitative differences between men and women (at least outside the luteal phase). In a prospective cohort study of 1026 men with and without cardiovascular disease, we were not able to demonstrate any age-dependent change in serum progesterone concentrations. Progesterone influences spermiogenesis, sperm capacitation/acrosome reaction and testosterone biosynthesis in the Leydig cells. Other progesterone effects in men include those on the central nervous system (CNS) (mainly mediated by 5alpha-reduced progesterone metabolites as so-called neurosteroids), including blocking of gonadotropin secretion, sleep improvement, and effects on tumors in the CNS (meningioma, fibroma), as well as effects on the immune system, cardiovascular system, kidney function, adipose tissue, behavior, and respiratory system. A progestin may stimulate weight gain and appetite in men as well as in women. The detection of progesterone receptor isoforms would have a highly diagnostic value in prostate pathology (benign prostatic hypertrophy and prostate cancer). The modulation of progesterone effects on typical male targets is connected with a great pharmacodynamic variability. The reason for this is that, in men, some important effects of progesterone are mediated non-genomically through different molecular biological modes of action. Therefore, the precise therapeutic manipulation of progesterone actions in the male requires completely new endocrine-pharmacological approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Progesterone / physiology*
  • Progestins / therapeutic use
  • Prostate / physiology
  • Urogenital System / physiology


  • Progestins
  • Progesterone