Mammalian aromatases

Alan J Conley, Margaret Hinshelwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


Aromatase is the enzyme complex that catalyses the synthesis of oestrogens from androgens, and therefore it has unique potential to influence the physiological balance between the sex steroid hormones. Both aromatase cytochrome P450 (P450arom) and NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase (reductase), the two essential components of the enzyme complex, are highly conserved among mammals and vertebrates. Aromatase expression occurs in the gonads and brain, and is essential for reproductive development and fertility. Of interest are the complex mechanisms involving alternative promoter utilization that have evolved to control tissue-specific expression in these tissues. In addition, in a number of species, including humans, expression of aromatase has a broader tissue distribution, including placenta, adipose and bone. The relevance of oestrogen synthesis and possibly androgen metabolism in these peripheral sites of expression is now becoming clear from studies in P450arom knockout (ArKO) mice and from genetic defects recognized recently in both men and women. Important species differences in the physiological roles of aromatase expression are also likely to emerge, despite the highly conserved nature of the enzyme system. The identification of functionally distinct, tissue-specific isozymes of P450arom in at least one mammal, pigs, and several species of fish indicates that there are additional subtle, but physiologically significant, species-specific roles for aromatase. Comparative studies of mammalian and other vertebrate aromatases will expand understanding of the role played by this ancient enzyme system in the evolution of reproduction and the adaptive influence of oestrogen synthesis on general health and well being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-695
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Cell Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Embryology


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