ABSTRACT: An important sex difference in body fat distribution is generally observed. Men are usually characterized by the android type of obesity, with accumulation of fat in the abdominal region, whereas women often display the gynoid type of obesity, with a greater proportion of their body fat in the gluteal-femoral region. Accordingly, the amount of fat located inside the abdominal cavity (intra-abdominal or visceral adipose tissue) is twice as high in men compared to women. This sex difference has been shown to explain a major portion of the differing metabolic profiles and cardiovascular disease risk in men and women. Association studies have shown that circulating androgens are negatively associated with intra-abdominal fat accumulation in men, which explains an important portion of the link between low androgens and features of the metabolic syndrome. In women, the low circulating sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels found in abdominal obesity may indirectly indicate that elevated free androgens are related to increased visceral fat accumulation. However, data on non SHBG-bound and total androgens are not unanimous and difficult to interpret for total androgens. These studies focusing on plasma levels of sex hormones indirectly suggest that androgens may alter adipose tissue mass in a depot-specific manner. This could occur through site-specific modulation of preadipocyte proliferation and/or differentiation as well as lipid synthesis and/or lipolysis in mature adipocytes. Recent results on the effects of androgens in cultured adipocytes and adipose tissue have been inconsistent, but may indicate decreased adipogenesis and increased lipolysis upon androgen treatment. Finally, adipose tissue has been shown to express several steroidogenic and steroid-inactivating enzymes. Their mere presence in fat indirectly supports the notion of a highly complex enzymatic system modulating steroid action on a local basis. Recent data obtained in both men and women suggest that enzymes from the aldoketoreductase 1C family are very active and may be important modulators of androgen action in adipose tissue.
The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 03/2008; 108(3-5):272-80. · 3.05 Impact Factor