The mechanisms causing the rise in adrenal androgen production during the course of adrenarche remain to be defined. However, the increase in steroid release is clearly associated with a series of intra-adrenal changes in the expression of steroidogenic enzymes needed for dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) production, as well as an expansion of the adrenal zona reticularis (ZR). We and others have defined the adrenal expression pattern of key steroidogenic enzymes during adrenarche. As adrenarche proceeds, the expanding ZR expresses greater levels of cytochrome b5 (CYB5) and steroid sulfotransferase (SULT2A1) than the adjacent fasciculata. In contrast, the growing ZR is deficient in 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD3B2). The resulting profile of steroidogenic enzymes lends itself to the production of adrenal androgens and appears to track the progression of adrenarche. This article reviews the intra-adrenal changes of the adrenal cortex associated with adrenarche.
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