Structural and Functional Biology of Aldo-Keto Reductase Steroid-Transforming Enzymes

Endocr Rev. 2019 Apr 1;40(2):447-475. doi: 10.1210/er.2018-00089.


Aldo-keto reductases (AKRs) are monomeric NAD(P)(H)-dependent oxidoreductases that play pivotal roles in the biosynthesis and metabolism of steroids in humans. AKR1C enzymes acting as 3-ketosteroid, 17-ketosteroid, and 20-ketosteroid reductases are involved in the prereceptor regulation of ligands for the androgen, estrogen, and progesterone receptors and are considered drug targets to treat steroid hormone-dependent malignancies and endocrine disorders. In contrast, AKR1D1 is the only known steroid 5β-reductase and is essential for bile-acid biosynthesis, the generation of ligands for the farnesoid X receptor, and the 5β-dihydrosteroids that have their own biological activity. In this review we discuss the crystal structures of these AKRs, their kinetic and catalytic mechanisms, AKR genomics (gene expression, splice variants, polymorphic variants, and inherited genetic deficiencies), distribution in steroid target tissues, roles in steroid hormone action and disease, and inhibitor design.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aldo-Keto Reductases* / chemistry
  • Aldo-Keto Reductases* / deficiency
  • Aldo-Keto Reductases* / genetics
  • Aldo-Keto Reductases* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases* / chemistry
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases* / deficiency
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases* / genetics
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases* / metabolism
  • Oxidoreductases* / chemistry
  • Oxidoreductases* / deficiency
  • Oxidoreductases* / genetics
  • Oxidoreductases* / metabolism
  • Steroids / metabolism*


  • Steroids
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Aldo-Keto Reductases