Steroid chemistry and hormone controls during the hair follicle cycle

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1991 Dec 26:642:376-83; discussion 383-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1991.tb24402.x.


Human hair follicles contain several steroid enzymes capable of transforming weak androgens, such as dehydroepiandrosterone, into more potent target tissue androgens, such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Kinetic constants have been evaluated for the 3-alpha, 3-beta, and 17-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase enzymes, 5a-reductase, and the aromatase enzyme in isolated human HF from scalp of men and women with androgenetic alopecia. The apparent Km values did not differ for each enzyme whether present in bald, receded HF or thick, anagen HF of men or women. However, levels of specific activity varied greatly in the frontal versus occipital HF analyzed. The androgen receptor content and activation factors also differ between men and women. The steroid mechanisms influencing AGA in men and women may be similar, but differences in the specific activity/amounts of enzymes, receptors, and activation factors differ between men and women. These findings may explain the varied clinical presentations of men and women with AGA, and may shape treatment options for the future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Alopecia / enzymology
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Aromatase / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hair / growth & development
  • Hair / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microsomes / enzymology


  • Androgens
  • Aromatase
  • 3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase