DHEA/DHEAS Circulating Levels

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Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and its sulfate ester, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) are produced in the zona reticularis of the adrenal gland. DHEA and DHEAS are the most abundant steroid hormones in circulation across the human lifespan. DHEAS, which can be converted peripherally back to DHEA and into other steroids, such as estradiol, is considered a stock for these hormones due to its longer half-life and higher concentration levels.

Levels of DHEA/DHEAS rise at adrenarche, a primate specific developmental event involving differentiation of the adrenal gland and production of adrenal androgens. Maximum circulating levels of DHEAS are 3X higher in humans than in chimpanzee, which are the highest among the Great apes, with gorillas only expressing 34% and orangutan 16% of chimpanzee levels. Human concentrations of DHEAS do not fall to the highest chimpanzee levels until the 5th decade of life. High DHEA/DHEAS levels are hypothesized to contribute human longevity.

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  1. Brief communication: Adrenal androgens and aging: Female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) compared with women, Blevins, JK, Coxworth JE, Herndon JG, and Hawkes K , Am J Phys Anthropol, Aug, Volume 151, Number 4, p.643-8, (2013)
  2. Adrenal androgen production in catarrhine primates and the evolution of adrenarche., Bernstein, Robin M., Sterner Kirstin N., and Wildman Derek E. , Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012 Mar, Volume 147, Issue 3, p.389-400, (2012)