Significant advances have taken place in our knowledge of the enzymes involved in steroid hormone biosynthesis since the last comprehensive review in 1988. Major developments include the cloning, identification, and characterization of multiple isoforms of 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, which play a critical role in the biosynthesis of all steroid hormones and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase where specific isoforms are essential for the final step in active steroid hormone biosynthesis. Advances have taken place in our understanding of the unique manner that determines tissue-specific expression of P450aromatase through the utilization of alternative promoters. In recent years, evidence has been obtained for the expression of steroidogenic enzymes in the nervous system and in cardiac tissue, indicating that these tissues may be involved in the biosynthesis of steroid hormones acting in an autocrine or paracrine manner. This review presents a detailed description of the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of active steroid hormones, with emphasis on the human and mouse enzymes and their expression in gonads, adrenal glands, and placenta.
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