High bioavailability of dehydroepiandrosterone administered percutaneously in the rat

J Endocrinol. 1996 Sep;150 Suppl:S107-18.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) administered percutaneously by twice daily application for 7 days to the dorsal skin of the rat stimulates an increase in ventral prostate weight with approximately one third the potency of the compound given by subcutaneous injection. The doses required to achieve a 50% reversal of the inhibitory effect of orchiectomy are approximately 3 and 1 mg respectively. By the oral route, on the other hand. DHEA has only 10-15% of the activity of the compound given percutaneously. Taking the bioavailability obtained by the subcutaneous route as 100%, it is estimated that the potencies of DHEA by the percutaneous and oral routes are approximately 33 and 3% respectively. Similar ratios of activity were obtained when dorsal prostate and seminal vesicle weight were used as parameters of androgenic activity. When examined on an estrogen-sensitive parameter, namely uterine weight in ovariectomized rats, the stimulatory effect of DHEA was much less potent than its androgenic activity measured in the male animal, a 50% reversal of the inhibitory effect of ovariectomy on uterine weight being observed at the 3 and 30 mg doses of DHEA administered by the subcutaneous and percutaneous routes respectively. When measured on uterine weight, percutaneous DHEA thus shows a 10% potency compared with the subcutaneous route. The sulfate of DHEA (DHEA-S), on the other hand, was approximately 50% as potent as DHEA at increasing ventral prostate weight after subcutaneous or percutaneous administration. When the effect was measured on dorsal prostate and seminal vesicle weight, percutaneous DHEA-S had 10-25% of the activity of DHEA. DHEA decreased serum LH levels in ovariectomized animals, an effect which was completely reversed by treatment with the antiandrogen flutamide. On the other hand, flutamide had no significant effect on the increase in uterine weight caused by DHEA, thus suggesting a predominant estrogenic effect of DHEA at the level of the uterus and an estrogenic effect on the feedback control of LH secretion. The present data show a relatively high bioavailability of percutaneous DHEA as measured by its androgenic and/or estrogenic biological activity in well-characterized peripheral target intracrime tissues in the rat.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Administration, Oral
  • Androgen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / pharmacokinetics
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Flutamide / pharmacology
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Ovariectomy
  • Prostate / anatomy & histology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Uterus / anatomy & histology


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Flutamide
  • Luteinizing Hormone