Aromatization of androgens by human abdominal and breast fat tissue

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1975 Mar;40(3):367-72. doi: 10.1210/jcem-40-3-367.


The ability of human abdominal, breast and axillary fat to convert androgens into estrogens was investigated by incubating labeled substrates in the presence of NADPH with a variety of cell preparations. The incubation products were subjected to phenolic partition, paper chromatography, methyl-ether formation, repeat chromatography and crystallization with cold carrier reference standards to constant specific activity. Androstenedione was converted to estrone and, to a lesser extent, to 17beta-estradiol by crude homogenates, minces, fat-free particulate fractions (1,000-100,000 time g) and isolated fat cells obtained from abdominal, breast or axillary fat. Testosterone was found to be aromatized as actively as androstenedione, but inthis case more 17 beta-estrodiol was formed than estrone. 19-Hydroxyandrostenedione-2 also served as substrate, givingresults similar to those obtained with androstenedione. Fat tissue obtained from cancerous breasts was found to be as active as normal breast fat (1-4 pg/g fat/90 min) and within the range found for abdominal fat (1-27 pg/g fat/90 min). In each case in which axillary fat was compared to breast fat from the same subject, the activity of the axillary fat was 5 to 10 times higher. The results indicate a possible role of adipose tissue as a significant extra-gonadal source of estrogens.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Androstenedione / metabolism
  • Androstenols / metabolism
  • Axilla / metabolism
  • Breast / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Estradiol / biosynthesis
  • Estrogens / biosynthesis*
  • Estrone / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • NADP
  • Testosterone / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Androstenols
  • Estrogens
  • Estrone
  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Estradiol
  • NADP