Role of DHEA-S on body fat distribution: gender- and depot-specific stimulation of adipose tissue lipolysis

Steroids. 2008 Feb;73(2):209-15. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2007.10.005. Epub 2007 Oct 23.


The objective of this work was to study the possible impact of DHEA-S on body fat distribution and the specific action of the hormone on lipolysis from visceral and subcutaneous human adipose tissue. First, a clinical evaluation was performed in 84 obese patients (29 men, 55 women), measuring serum DHEA-S, computed tomography (CT) anthropometric parameters of abdominal fat distribution. In a second experiment, subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue samples were obtained from 20 obese patients (10 men, 10 women) and cultured in vitro under stimulation with DHEA-S to further assess a possible effect of this hormone on adipose tissue lipolysis. Serum DHEA-S was inversely and specifically associated with visceral fat area (VA) as assessed by CT in men and with waist-to-hip ratio in women. In vitro, DHEA-S increased lipolysis in women's subcutaneous adipose tissue at 2 h, while in men, the effect was evident in visceral tissue and after 24 h of treatment. In conclusion, DHEA-S contributes to gender-related differences in body fat distribution probably by a differential lipolytic action. We have demonstrated for the first time in vitro that DHEA-S stimulates lipolysis preferably in subcutaneous fat in women and in visceral fat in men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / physiology*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipolysis*
  • Male
  • Obesity
  • Sex Factors
  • Subcutaneous Fat


  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate