The increased production of adrenal dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA-sulfate (DHEAS) which occurs during the prepubertal period is known as adrenarche. One hypothesis for adrenarche is that alterations in intra- adrenal expression of steroidogenic enzymes within the inner reticularis zone leads to the increased production of 19-carbon steroids. We tested the hypothesis that at the time of adrenarche there is decreased expression of 3βHSD in the reticularis. Immunohistochemical localization of 3βHSD was performed and staining intensities compared between adrenal glands from children ages 4 months to 7 years (N=11) and ages 8 to 11 years (N=6). No difference was observed between the levels of staining in the glomerulosa and fasciculata from either age group. However, the reticularis from the older children exhibited diminished 3βHSD immunoreactivity. These findings suggest that as children mature there is a decreased level of 3βHSD in the adrenal reticularis which may contribute to the increased production of DHEA and DHEAS seen during adrenarche.
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