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Open access

Matthias K Auer, James M Hawley, Christian Lottspeich, Martin Bidlingmaier, Andrea Sappl, Hanna F Nowotny, Lea Tschaidse, Marcus Treitl, Martin Reincke, Brian G Keevil, and Nicole Reisch


Differentiation of an adrenal from an ovarian source of hyperandrogenemia can be challenging. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of 11-oxygenated C19 steroids to the androgen pool in humans. The aim of this study was to confirm the origin of 11-oxygenated androgens in females and to explore their potential use in the diagnostics of hyperandrogenic disorders.


We measured testosterone and its precursors (dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate and androstenedione) and 11-oxygenated androgens (11β-hydroxyandrostenedione (11-OHA4) and 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT)) in the periphery, adrenal and ovarian veins in four different cases of hyperandrogenism in females (polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia, Sertoli–Leydig cell tumor and ovarian steroid cell tumor).


Two patients demonstrate excessive testosterone secretion in neoplastic ovarian tumors which was not paralleled by a significant secretion of 11-oxygenated androgens as determined by adrenal and ovarian vein sampling. In androgen-secreting bilateral adrenal macronodular hyperplasia, steroid profiles were characterized by elevated 11-KT and 11-OHA4 concentrations in adrenal veins and the periphery. In the patient with PCOS, peripheral 11-KT concentrations were slightly elevated in comparison to the other patients, but the 11-KT and 11-OHA4 concentrations were comparable in ovarian veins and in the periphery.


This study confirms that 11-OHA4 and 11-KT are not biosynthesized by the ovary. We propose that the testosterone/11-KT ratio as well as 11-OHA4 could help identify predominant adrenal androgen excess and distinguish neoplastic and non-neoplastic ovarian androgen source.

Significance statement

This study confirms that 11β-hydroxyandrostenedione (11-OHA4) and 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) are not biosynthesized by the human ovary. We propose that the testosterone/11-KT ratio as well as 11-OHA4 could help to identify predominant adrenal androgen excess and distinguish neoplastic and non-neoplastic ovarian androgen source.

Open access

Hanna F Nowotny, Leah Braun, Frederick Vogel, Martin Bidlingmaier, Martin Reincke, Lea Tschaidse, Matthias K Auer, Christian Lottspeich, Stefan A Wudy, Michaela F Hartmann, James Hawley, Joanne E Adaway, Brian Keevil, Katharina Schilbach, and Nicole Reisch


Symptoms of hyperandrogenism are common in patients with Cushing’s disease (CD), yet they are not sufficiently explained by androgen concentrations. In this study, we analyzed the contribution of 11-oxygenated C19 steroids (11oxC19) to hyperandrogenemia in female patients with CD.


We assessed saliva day profiles in females with CD pre (n  = 23) and post (n  = 13) successful transsphenoidal surgery, 26 female controls, 5 females with CD treated with metyrapone and 5 treated with osilodrostat for cortisol, cortisone, androstenedione (A4), 11-hydroxyandrostenedione (11OHA4), testosterone (TS), 11-ketotestosterone (11KT), as well as metabolites of classic and 11-oxygenated androgens in 24-h urine. In addition, morning baseline levels of gonadotropins and estradiol, sex hormone-binding globulin, cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) in serum and adrenocorticotrophic hormone in plasma in patients and controls were investigated.


Treatment-naïve females with CD showed a significantly elevated area under the curve of 11OHA4 and 11KT in saliva throughout the day compared to controls (11OHA4 mean rank difference (mrd) 18.13, P = 0.0002; 11KT mrd 17.42; P = 0.0005), whereas A4, TS and DHEAS were comparable to controls. Gonadotropin concentrations were normal in all patients with CD. After transsphenoidal surgery, 11oxC19 and their metabolites dropped significantly in saliva (11OHA4 P < 0.0001; 11KT P = 0.0010) and urine (11-oxo-androsterone P = 0.0011; 11-hydroxy-androsterone P < 0.0001), treatment with osilodrostat and metyrapone efficaciously blocked 11oxC19 synthesis.


Hyperandrogenemia in CD is predominantly caused by excess of 11oxC19 steroids.