Aromatase up-regulation, insulin and raised intracellular oestrogens in men, induce adiposity, metabolic syndrome and prostate disease, via aberrant ER-α and GPER signalling

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 Apr 4;351(2):269-78. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2011.12.017. Epub 2012 Jan 5.


For some years now, reduced testosterone levels have been related to obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, benign prostatic hypertrophy and even prostate cancer--often considered guilty more by association, than actual cause--with little attention paid to the important role of increased intracellular oestrogen, in the pathogenesis of these chronic diseases. In the final stage of the steroidogenic cascade, testosterone is metabolised to oestradiol by P450 aromatase, in the cytoplasm of adipocytes, breast cells, endothelial cells and prostate cells, to increase intracellular oestradiol concentration at the expense of testosterone. It follows therefore, that any compound that up-regulates aromatase, or any molecule that mimics oestrogen, will not only increase the activation of the mainly proliferative, classic ER-α, oestrogen receptors to induce adipogenesis and growth disorders in oestrogen-sensitive tissues, but also activate the recently identified transmembrane G protein-coupled oestrogen receptors (GPER), and deleteriously alter important intracellular signalling sequences, that promote mitogenic growth and endothelial damage. This paper simplifies how stress, xeno-oestrogens, poor dietary choices and reactive toxins up-regulate aromatase to increase intracellular oestradiol production; how oestradiol in combination with leptin and insulin cause insulin resistance and leptin resistance through aberrant serine phosphorylation; how the increased oestradiol, insulin and leptin stimulate rapid, non-genomic G protein-coupled phosphorylation cascades, to increase fat deposition and create the vasoconstrictive, dyslipidemic features of metabolic syndrome; how aberrant GPER signalling induces benign prostatic hypertrophy; and how increased intracellular oestradiol stimulates mitogenic change and tumour-cell activators, to cause prostate cancer. In essence, the up-regulation of aromatase produces increased intracellular oestradiol, increases ER-α activation and increases GPER activation, in combination with insulin, to cause aberrant downstream transduction signaling, and thus induce metabolic syndrome and mitogenic prostate growth. To understand this fact, that raised intracellular oestradiol levels in men, induce and promote obesity, gynecomastia, metabolic syndrome, type two diabetes, benign prostatic hypertrophy and prostate cancer, rather than low testosterone, represents a shift in medical thinking, a new awareness, that will reduce the rising incidence of obesity, metabolic syndrome and prostate disease, and significantly improve the health of men worldwide.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Aromatase / metabolism*
  • Body Fat Distribution
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Gynecomastia / pathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Prostatic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Testosterone
  • Up-Regulation


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogens
  • GPER1 protein, human
  • Insulin
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Leptin
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Testosterone
  • Aromatase