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Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation

Editor-in-Chief: Chetrite, Gérard S.

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Volume 34, Issue 1


Circulating steroid levels as correlates of adipose tissue phenotype in premenopausal women

Geneviève B. Marchand
  • Endocrinology and Nephrology, CHU de Quebec Medical Center, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • School of Nutrition, Laval University, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Other articles by this author:
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/ Anne-Marie Carreau
  • Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Sherbrooke University, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Sofia Laforest
  • Endocrinology and Nephrology, CHU de Quebec Medical Center, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • School of Nutrition, Laval University, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Julie-Anne Côté
  • Endocrinology and Nephrology, CHU de Quebec Medical Center, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • School of Nutrition, Laval University, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Marleen Daris / Katherine Cianflone / Cornelia Prehn
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Experimental Genetics, Genome Analysis Center, Neuherberg, Oberschleibheim, Germany
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/ Jerzy Adamski
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Experimental Genetics, Genome Analysis Center, Neuherberg, Oberschleibheim, Germany
  • Lehrstuhl für Experimentelle Genetik, Technische Universität München, Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany
  • German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), München-Neuherberg, Germany
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/ André Tchernof
  • Corresponding author
  • Endocrinology and Nephrology, CHU de Quebec Medical Center, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • School of Nutrition, Laval University, Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, Laval University, 2725 Chemin Sainte-Foy, Y4212, Quebec, Canada G1V 4G5, Phone: +418-656-8711
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-05-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hmbci-2017-0082



Obesity-related alterations in the circulating steroid hormone profile remain equivocal in women. Our objective was to identify circulating steroid levels that relate to increased adiposity and altered adipose phenotype in premenopausal women.

Materials and methods

In a sample of 42 premenopausal women [age 46 ± 3 years; body mass index (BMI) 27.1 ± 4.2 kg/m2], 19 plasma steroids were quantified by electrospray ionization-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectroscopy (ESI-LC-MS/MS). Body composition and fat distribution were assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and computed tomography (CT), respectively. Markers of adipose tissue function including adipocyte size distributions, radiological attenuation and macrophage infiltration were also analyzed in surgically obtained visceral and subcutaneous fat samples.


Many negative correlations were observed between adiposity measurements such as BMI, body fat percentage or total abdominal adipose tissue area and plasma levels of androstenedione (Δ4) (r = −0.33 to −0.39, p ≤ 0.04), androsterone (ADT) (r = −0.30 to −0.38, p ≤ 0.05) and steroid precursor pregnenolone (PREG) (r = −0.36 to −0.46, p ≤ 0.02). Visceral adipocyte hypertrophy was observed in patients with low PREG concentrations (p < 0.05). Visceral adipose tissue radiologic attenuation, a potential marker of adipocyte size, was also positively correlated with PREG levels (r = 0.33, p < 0.05). Low levels of PREG were related to increased number of macrophages infiltrating visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue (p < 0.05).


Plasma levels of androgens and their precursors are lower in women with increased adiposity and visceral adipocyte hypertrophy. Low circulating PREG concentration may represent a marker of adipose tissue dysfunction.

Keywords: adipocyte; androstanes; computed tomography


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About the article

Received: 2017-12-21

Accepted: 2018-04-02

Published Online: 2018-05-11

Author Statement

Research funding: Supported in part by funds from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD e.V.). GBM was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Diabète Québec and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. AMC and SL were funded by Fond de recherche du Québec – Santé. JAC was funded by Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral Program.

Conflict of interest: A.T. receives research grant support from Johnson & Johnson Medical Companies and Medtronic for studies unrelated to this manuscript. No author declared a conflict to interest.

Informed consent: All subjects provided written informed consent in accordance to the Ethics Committee of CHU de Québec Medical Center-Université Laval.

Ethical approval: The research related to human use complied with all the relevant national regulations and institutional policies and was performed in accordance to the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki and has been approved by the author’s institutional review board.

Citation Information: Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, Volume 34, Issue 1, 20170082, ISSN (Online) 1868-1891, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hmbci-2017-0082.

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