The differential role of androgens in early human sex development
- Olaf Hiort Email author
© Hiort; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received: 22 February 2013
Accepted: 29 May 2013
Published: 24 June 2013
Human sex development can be divided into three major steps. First, the determination of the chromosomal set with the presence or absence of a specific gene on the Y chromosome termed SRY, as well as the sex differences induced from the inequality of the sex chromosomes and their corresponding genes [1, 2]. Second, the development of the gonad and its differentiation into either testis or ovary [3, 4]. Third, the control of the phenotype of the individual by the secretion and action of specific hormones, which in turn lead to additional genetic programming. These steps have to occur in a stringent and time-dependent manner to allow any individual to develop into a male or a female. The sexual dimorphism is then a major determinant for further development of the individual and its capacity for reproduction, but also for sex-related differences in health and disease. Examples for this are differences in the occurrence of defined disorders, but also alterations in pharmacologic treatment responses. This has been increasingly recognized, but the role of sex-related endocrinology has been only partly understood in its developmental aspects to date. This review will describe the differential effects of androgens in human sex development, focusing on recent knowledge obtained from human natural models of distinct differences of sex development.