Peripheral tissue metabolism of steroids (intracrinology) is now accepted as a key way in which tissues, such as the endometrium, can utilize inactive steroids present in the blood to respond to local physiological demands and ‘fine-tune’ the activation or inhibition of steroid hormone receptor-dependent processes. Expression of enzymes that play a critical role in activation and inactivation of bioactive oestrogens (E1, E2) and androgens (A4, T, DHT), as well as expression of steroid hormone receptors, has been detected in endometrial tissues and cells recovered during the menstrual cycle. There is robust evidence that increased expression of aromatase is important for creating a local microenvironment that can support a pregnancy. Measurement of intra-tissue concentrations of steroids using liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry has been important in advancing our understanding of a role for androgens in the endometrium acting both as active ligands for the androgen receptor and as substrates for oestrogen biosynthesis. The emergence of intracrinology, associated with disordered expression of key enzymes such as aromatase, in the aetiology of common women’s health disorders such as endometriosis and endometrial cancer has prompted renewed interest in development of drugs targeting these pathways opening up new opportunities for targeted therapies and precision medicine.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.