Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is important for human health, especially for women. All estrogens and practically half of androgens are synthesized from DHEA in peripheral tissues. However, the mechanism and exact target tissues of DHEA biotransformation in the female are not fully clear. The present study showed that maximal content of androstenedione (AD) and testosterone (T) were observed at 3h after DHEA administration in female rats, which was 264% and 8000% above the control, respectively. Estradiol (E2) content significantly increased at 6h after DHEA administration, which was 113% higher than that in control group. Gavage with DHEA could significantly reduce 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3β-HSD) mRNA level at 3-12h and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17β-HSD) mRNA level at 12h in ovary, while increasing aromatase mRNA levels at 6, 24, and 48h. It is interesting that administration of DHEA caused a significant increase of 17β-HSD, 3β-HSD and aromatase mRNA levels in adrenal. The AD and T contents also markedly increased by 537% and 2737% after DHEA administration in ovariectomised rats, in company with a significant increase in 17β-HSD and 3β-HSD mRNA levels and decreased aromatase mRNA level in adrenal. However, DHEA administration did not restore the decreased E2, estrone (E1), and progesterone (P) caused by the removal of the ovaries in females. These results clearly illustrated that exogenous DHEA is preferentially converted into androgens in adrenal, while its conversion to estrogens mainly happens in the ovary through steroidogenic enzyme in female rats.
Zhou, Y., Kang, J., Chen, D., Han, N., & Ma, H. (2015). Ample evidence: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) conversion into activated steroid hormones occurs in adrenal and ovary in female rat. PLoS ONE, 10(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124511