Male pseudohermaphroditism due to steroid 5-alpha-reductase deficiency

Am J Med. 1977 Feb;62(2):170-91. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(77)90313-8.


A new inherited form of male pseudohermaphroditism has been investigated in a pedigree of 24 families with 38 affected males. At birth, the affected males (46 XY) have a clitoral-like phallus, bifid scrotum and urogenital sinus. The testes are in the inguinal canals or labial-scrotal folds. The Wolffian structures are normally differentiated; there are no Mullerian structures. At puberty a muscular male habitus develops with growth of the phallus and scrotum, voice change and no gynecomastia. The subjects have erections, ejaculations and a libido directed towards females. They have decreased body hair, a scant to absent beard, no temporal hair line recession and a small prostate. Testicular biopsy reveals a normal testis. The mean plasma T levels in affected adults are significantly higher, and the mean plasma DHT levels are significantly lower when compared to those in normal subjects. The plasma T:DHT ratios range from 35 to 84 compared to 8 to 16 in normal subjects. After the administration of hCG, the T:DHT ratios in affected male children range from 74 to 162 compared to 3 to 26 in the control subjects. In affected adults, mean plasma LH and FSH levels are significantly higher than in normal subjects. In the affected subjects, the metabolic clearance rates of T and DHT are normal, but the conversion ratio of T to DHT is less than 1 per cent. The endogenous mean urinary E:A and E-OH:A-OH ratios, and the urinary E:A and E-OH:A-OH ratios after the infusion of radioactive T are significantly higher than in normal males. Inheritance is autosomal recessive with some sibling sisters showing the same biochemical defect, and obligate carrier parents showing an intermediate defect. These data support our thesis that the defect in these male pseudohermaphrodites is secondary to decreased steroid delta 4-5 alpha-reductase activity. The affected subjects provide a clinical model for delineating the roles of T and DHT in sexual differentiation and development. This entity also demonstrates an inherited disorder of steroid metabolism in which the basic enzyme deficiency resides in the target tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase / deficiency*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dihydrotestosterone / blood
  • Disorders of Sex Development / etiology*
  • Disorders of Sex Development / genetics
  • Disorders of Sex Development / metabolism
  • Disorders of Sex Development / pathology
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Karyotyping
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Oxidoreductases / deficiency*
  • Phenotype
  • Steroids / metabolism
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Steroids
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Oxidoreductases
  • 3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase