Androgen biosynthetic pathways in the human prostate

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Apr;22(2):207-21. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2008.01.008.


It is well recognized that there are two androgens, namely testosterone (T) and dihydrotestosterone (DHT); T plays an important role in the testis and muscle, and DHT is crucial for the development, function and pathology of the prostate. It is generally thought that DHT is produced from the 5alpha-reduction of circulating T before being inactivated by 3alpha-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3alpha-HSD) that converts DHT into 5alpha-androstane-3alpha,17beta-diol (3alpha-diol). However, the presence of various steroidogenic enzymes in the prostate as well as the availability at high levels of various steroid precursors such as dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and 4-androstenedione (4-dione) strongly suggest the existence of additional pathways involved in the biosynthesis and metabolism of DHT. Because steroidogenesis could be different in different species, data from the literature obtained from various human, dog, rat and mouse prostate tissues, as well as primary cells and prostatic cancer cell lines, provide a somewhat confusing picture. In the present chapter, we review the data in order to provide a clearer picture of the pathways involved in DHT biosynthesis and metabolism in the human prostate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / biosynthesis*
  • Animals
  • Biosynthetic Pathways / physiology*
  • Dihydrotestosterone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / physiology
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Oxidoreductases / physiology
  • Prostate / enzymology
  • Prostate / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Testosterone
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases