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Minerva Ginecologica 2013 December;65(6):641-51


language: English

Ovarian adrenal interactions during the menopausal transition

Lasley B. L. 1, Crawford S. L. 2, McConnell D. S. 3

1 Center for Health and the Environment University of California at Davis,Davis, CA, USA; 2 Department of Medicine Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester, MA, USA; 3 Department of Epidemiology School of Public Health, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI, USA


Observations over the past decade using longitudinal data reveal a gender-specific shift in adrenal steroid production. This shift is represented by an increase in the circulating concentrations of delta 5 steroids in 85% of all women and is initiated only after the menopausal transition has begun. While the associated rise in the major adrenal androgen, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), is modest, the parallel rises in dehydroepiandrosteone (DHEA) and androstenediol (Adiol) are much more robust. These increases in circulating steroid concentrations are qualitatively similar on average between ethnicities but quantitatively different between individual women. Both circulating testosterone (T) and androstenedione (Adione) also rise concomitantly but modestly by comparison. This phenomenon presents a new and provocative aspect to the endocrine foundations of the menopausal transition and may provide important clues to understanding the fundamentals of mid-aged women’s healthy aging, particularly an explanation for the wide diversity in phenotypes observed during the MT as well as their different responses to hormone replacement therapies. Experimental studies using the nonhuman primate animal model show an acute adrenal response to human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) challenge as well as the presence of luteinizing hormone receptors (LHR) in their adrenal cortices. These experimental results support the concept that LHRs are recruited to the adrenal cortices of mid-aged women that subsequently function to respond to increasing circulating LH to shunt pregnenolone metabolites towards the delta 5 pathway. Future investigations are required to determine the relationship of these changes in adrenal function to symptoms and health outcomes of mid-aged women.

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