Ovarian androgen production in postmenopausal women

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Aug;92(8):3040-3. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-0581. Epub 2007 May 22.


Context: Several studies previously reported that the postmenopausal ovary produces androgens. However, these findings have recently been questioned in a group of women with adrenal insufficiency.

Objective: We sought to use contemporary assay methodologies to investigate whether the postmenopausal ovary is hormonally active and contributes to the circulating pool of androgens.

Design and patients: Serum was collected from the ovarian veins of 13 postmenopausal women undergoing total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy, with sufficient quantities obtained to allow for measurement of several hormones. Serum was also analyzed from peripheral blood collected preoperatively, intraoperatively, and postoperatively.

Setting: The study took place at the Los Angeles County Women's and Children's Hospital, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.

Main outcome measures: Testosterone (T), androstenedione (A), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), estrone (E1), and estradiol (E2) were measured by RIA with preceding organic solvent extraction and Celite column chromatography.

Results: Statistically significant gradients were seen between the ovarian venous and peripheral samples for T, A, DHEA, E1, and E2. Postoperative levels of T and E1, but not A, DHEA, or E2, were statistically significantly lower than preoperative levels. A gradient for T between the ovarian venous and peripheral blood was present in four of five women who were menopausal for more than 10 yr.

Conclusions: The postmenopausal ovary is hormonally active, contributing significantly to the circulating pool of T. Furthermore, this contribution appears to persist in women as long as 10 yr beyond the menopause.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Androgens / blood*
  • Androstenedione / blood
  • Blood Specimen Collection
  • Body Mass Index
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estrone / blood
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovariectomy
  • Ovary / metabolism*
  • Postmenopause / blood
  • Postmenopause / metabolism*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Reference Values
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Androgens
  • Estrone
  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone