It is generally accepted that androgens produced by fetal Leydig cells (FLC) control proper masculinization of the male external genitalia. Here, we hypothesized that the human genital tubercle (GT) has potential to synthesize androgens independently of FLC at early pregnancy. We observed that human GT of both genders have capacity to synthesize steroids of the Δ4, Δ5 and alternative pathway of DHT synthesis including the androgen itself. The presence of steroids in the GT was associated with the expression of corresponding steroidogenic enzymes. Levels of steroids and the expression of steroidogenic enzymes were similar in the GT from male and female fetuses. In contrast to the GT, the human fetal testis synthesized DHT from testosterone but not via the alternative pathway. Our findings strongly suggest that the human GT at early pregnancy can synthesize DHT via the alternative pathway, which may play an important role in organogenesis of the urethra.
27 - 29 Sep 2018
European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology