Androgens and estrogens are known to be critical regulators of mammalian physiology and development. While these two classes of steroids share similar structures (in general, estrogens are derived from androgens via the enzyme aromatase), they subserve markedly different functions via their specific receptors. In the past, estrogens such as estradiol were thought to be most important in the regulation of female biology, while androgens such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone were believed to primarily modulate development and physiology in males. However, the emergence of patients with deficiencies in androgen or estrogen hormone synthesis or actions, as well as the development of animal models that specifically target androgen- or estrogen-mediated signaling pathways, have revealed that estrogens and androgens regulate critical biological and pathological processes in both males and females. In fact, the concept of “male” and “female” hormones is an oversimplification of a complex developmental and biological network of steroid actions that directly impacts many organs. In this Review, we will discuss important roles of estrogens in males and androgens in females.
Stephen R. Hammes, Ellis R. Levin
Estrogens act through ERα and ERβ at the plasma membrane and in the nucleus to regulate functions of many organs in men.