Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an anabolic steroid like dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the most potent natural androgen, and tetrahydrogestrinone (THG)

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2006 Jul;100(1-3):52-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2006.03.006. Epub 2006 Jun 21.


We have recently taken advantage of the unique power of DNA microarrays to compare the genomic expression profile of tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) with that of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the most potent natural androgen, thus clearly demonstrating that THG is an anabolic steroid. In 2004, the U.S. Controlled Substances Act has been modified to include androstenedione (4-dione) as an anabolic steroid. However, despite the common knowledge that dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the precursor of testosterone, DHEA has been excluded from the list of anabolic steroids. We thus used the same DNA microarray technology to analyze the expression profile of practically all the 30,000 genes of the mouse genome modulated by DHEA and DHT in classical androgen-sensitive tissues. Daily subcutaneous injections of DHT (0.1mg) or DHEA (3mg) for 1 month in gonadectomized C57BL6/129 SV mice increased ventral prostate, dorsal prostate, seminal vesicle and preputial gland weight (p<0.01 for all tissues). As early as 24h after single injection of the two steroids, 878, 2681 and 14 probe sets were commonly stimulated or inhibited (p<0.01, change> or =30%), in the prostate (ventral+dorsal), seminal vesicles and preputial glands, respectively, compared to tissues from gonadectomized control animals. After 7 days of daily treatment with DHEA and DHT, 629, 919 and 562 probe sets were commonly modulated in the same tissues while after 27 days of treatment, 1195, 5127 and 2883 probe sets were modulated, respectively. In analogy with the data obtained with THG, the present microarray data provide an extremely precise and unquestionable genomic signature and proof of the androgenic/anabolic activity of DHEA. Such data add to the literature showing that DHEA is transformed into androgens in the human peripheral tissues as well as in laboratory animal species, including the monkey, thus exerting potent androgenic/anabolic activity. The present microarray approach to identify anabolic compounds is applicable to all potential androgenic/anabolic compounds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anabolic Agents / metabolism*
  • Androgens / administration & dosage
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Outbred Strains
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / administration & dosage
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / metabolism*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology
  • Dihydrotestosterone / administration & dosage
  • Dihydrotestosterone / metabolism*
  • Dihydrotestosterone / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genome
  • Gestrinone / administration & dosage
  • Gestrinone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Gestrinone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Biological
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Orchiectomy
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Prostate / drug effects
  • Seminal Vesicles / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Gestrinone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • tetrahydrogestrinone