Estrogen sulfotransferase (EST) catalyzes transfer of the sulfate group from phosphoadenosine phosphosulfate to estrogenic steroids. Since estrogen sulfates do not bind to the estrogen receptor with high affinity, EST can control the intracellular level of the receptor-active estrogens. Androgen action in the rat liver, as indicated by the androgenic induction of α2u-globulin, is inhibited by low levels of estrogens. Thus, in situ estrogen inactivation by EST is expected to increase hepatic androgen sensitivity. During the lifespan of the animal, rat liver undergoes three distinct phases of androgen sensitivity, i.e. prepubertal androgen insensitivity, androgen sensitivity after -40 days of age, and androgen insensitivity during senescence (750 days). EST in the liver is expressed only after puberty, when the liver becomes androgen sensitive. Furthermore, localization of EST and its corresponding mRNA within the lobular unit of the liver demonstrates that only androgen-responsive hepatocytes located around the central vein contain immunoreactive EST and its corresponding mRNA. These temporal and spatial correlations of EST expression and hepatic androgen sensitivity support the concept that steroid-inactivating enzymes play important roles in sex hormone action.
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