Distribution and percentages of non-protein bound contraceptive steroids in human serum

J Steroid Biochem. 1982 Oct;17(4):375-80. doi: 10.1016/0022-4731(82)90629-x.


PIP: It has been shown that albumin bound steroids are taken up by the rat brain in addition to nonprotein bound steroids and it has also been suggested that cortisol binding globulin (CBG) may facilitate progesterone uptake by the rat uterus but not the brain. Recently serum sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) has been identified in the cytoplasm of sex steroid target cells. Thus the distribution of synthetic steroids between various protein bound and nonprotein bound components in serum may influence their bioavailability at different target tissues. The authors employed a newly developed technique, centrifugal ultrafiltration-dialysis. The results showed that there are no differences in percentages of nonprotein bound ethinyl estradiol (EE2), and cyproterone acetate (CA) with respect to sex or serum SHBG and CBG binding capacities. However serum percentages of nonprotein bound norethisterone (NET) (p0.05) are significantly lower in women than in men. Also the percentages of nonprotein bound NET and D-norgestrel are both very much lower (p0.001) in serum from pregnant women when compared to nonpregnant women. These differences appear to be inversely related to serum SHBG binding capacity. The percentages of nonprotein bound NET and D-norgestrel in heat treated serum from men and nonpregnant women are identical and largely represent the contribution of albumin binding alone. In addition heat labile binding proteins do not appear to influence the percentages of nonprotein bound EE2 and CA and it can be inferred that EE2 and CA are almost exclusively bound by albumin in native serum; 98.5% of EE2 and 93% of CA are bound to albumin. In contrast the percentages of nonprotein bound NET and D-norgestrel in native serum are inversely related to SHBG binding capacity. This data indicate that the nonprotein bound and albumin bound factors of NET and D-norgestrel may vary by as much as 2-3 fold between women who are known to have subnormal or supranormal levels of serum SHBG binding capacity and it is suggested that measurements of serum SHBG binding capacity may provide a method of assessing the lowest effective dose of these 2 progestins in individual subjects to help reduce side effects associated with their use. Future studies should address the effect of serum steroid concentrations on the actual nonprotein bound serum concentrations and distribution of these progestins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Centrifugation / methods
  • Cyproterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cyproterone / blood
  • Cyproterone Acetate
  • Dialysis
  • Ethinyl Estradiol / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Norethindrone / blood*
  • Norgestrel / blood*
  • Pregnancy
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism
  • Ultrafiltration / methods


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Serum Albumin
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • cortisol binding globulin
  • Norgestrel
  • Ethinyl Estradiol
  • Cyproterone Acetate
  • Cyproterone
  • Norethindrone