Six Decades of Research on Human Fetal Gonadal Steroids

Stéphane Connan-Perrot, Thibaut Léger, Pauline Lelandais, Christèle Desdoits-Lethimonier, Arthur David, Paul A. Fowler, Séverine Mazaud-Guittot

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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Human fetal gonads acquire endocrine steroidogenic capabilities early during their differentiation. Genetic studies show that this endocrine function plays a central role in the sexually dimorphic development of the external genitalia during fetal development. When this endocrine function is dysregulated, congenital malformations and pathologies are the result. In this review, we explain how the current knowledge of steroidogenesis in human fetal gonads has benefited from both the technological advances in steroid measurements and the assembly of detailed knowledge of steroidogenesis machinery and its expression in human fetal gonads. We summarise how the conversion of radiolabelled steroid precursors, antibody-based assays, mass spectrometry, ultrastructural studies, and the in situ labelling of proteins and mRNA have all provided complementary information. In this review, our discussion goes beyond the debate on recommendations concerning the best choice between the different available technologies, and their degrees of reproducibility and sensitivity. The available technologies and techniques can be used for different purposes and, as long as all quality controls are rigorously employed, the question is how to maximise the generation of robust, reproducible data on steroid hormones and their crucial roles in human fetal development and subsequent functions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6681
Number of pages32
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number13
Early online date22 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments: All authors wish to dedicate this review to Bernard Jégou who enabled their meeting, and who was a perpetual source of inspiration for their research on human fetal gonads and in particular on their steroidogenic capacities with testes as ovaries.
Funding: This work was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 FREIA (grant agreement No. 825100) and the Marie Skłodowska‐Curie PROTECTED projects (grant agreement No. 722634 to P.A.F.). P.A.F., S.C.P., P.L., and L.L. are FREIA project recipients. T.L. was a recipient of funding from the French agency for food and safety (Anses).


  • detection
  • quantification
  • testis
  • ovary
  • steroidogenesis
  • androgens
  • estrogen
  • human
  • fetal


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