What Are Androgens and Estrogens? Their Role and Difference

Hormones act as chemical messengers that are released into the bloodstream in order to affect a target organ located in a different part of the body. Despite hormones reaching all cells within the body, only cells containing compatible receptors are able to respond to the hormonal signal. Estrogens represent the class of hormones that regulate female sexual development and characteristics. Conversely, androgens are responsible for controlling male sexual development traits.

What Are Androgens?

Male and female

Androgens represent a class of hormones that influence male traits and reproductive function. The primary androgens present in both males and females are testosterone and androstenedione.

Although referred to as “male hormones,” androgens should not be misunderstood as only pertaining to men. Androgens are produced by the bodies of both men and women, though in differing quantities. In fact, androgens exhibit over 200 actions in women and are found in higher concentrations than estrogens in the female body.

The two most important androgens are testosterone and androstenedione. As expected, these androgens are found in much greater prevalence in men, where they play a vital role in male characteristics and reproductive activity. Other androgens include dihydrotestosterone (DHT), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and DHEA sulfate.

One of the primary roles of androgens in women is to serve as precursors for conversion into estrogens, the class of female hormones.

What Are Androgens?

What Are Estrogens?

Estrogens represent a class of steroid hormones that play a vital role in the development of female sexual characteristics. The ovaries serve as the primary site of estrogen production, although the placenta can secrete trace amounts of estrogen during gestation. While present in males, estrogen is found in much lower concentrations compared to females.

Females produce three distinct forms of estrogen. Estradiol constitutes the predominant estrogen during the reproductive years, followed by estrone during menopause, and estriol during pregnancy.

Estrogen is a multifunctional hormone involved in the growth and maintenance of the female reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics. While produced primarily by the ovaries, estrogen can also be synthesized in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands and adipose tissue. Although present in both sexes, females exhibit substantially higher estrogen levels compared to males.

What Are Estrogens?

The Role of Androgens and Estrogens

The two principal steroid sex hormones present in both males and females are androgens and estrogens. Androgens predominate in males and exist in various forms, with testosterone representing the most critical androgen. In males, testosterone governs reproductive function and the emergence of secondary sexual traits. Conversely, estrogen constitutes the primary female sex hormone. Analogous to testosterone, estrogen directs female reproductive processes and induces the development of secondary sexual attributes in females. Deviations from normal androgen or estrogen levels, in the form of deficiencies or excess, can precipitate numerous physiological abnormalities in both men and women. Consequently, sustaining the appropriate ratio between androgens and estrogens proves critical for both sexes.

What are the Similarities Between Androgen and Estrogen?

● Androgen and estrogen both constitute steroid hormones.
● Androgens and estrogens are present in individuals of both sexes, male and female.
● Deficiencies in either androgen or estrogen can lead to aberrations in sexual traits and reproductive capacity in men and women alike.
● Both androgen and estrogen hormones participate in regulating reproductive function and inducing secondary sexual characteristic maturation.
● The signal transduction mechanisms of androgen and estrogen share commonality in involving hormone binding to DNA hormone response elements through formation of hormone-receptor complexes.

What is the Difference Between Androgen and Estrogen?

Androgen, a predominately male sex hormone, promotes the growth and function of male secondary sex characteristics. In contrast, estrogen, a female sex steroid, is integral to the maturation and upkeep of feminine physical attributes. While both hormones are present in each biological sex, their relative levels direct the emergence of masculine and feminine features.


While androgens are predominantly present in males, estrogens are mostly found in females.

Primary Sex Hormone

Testosterone is the most abundant androgen, whereas estradiol is the most prevalent estrogen.

Additional Types

Other androgens include dihydrotestosterone and androstenedione, while additional estrogens are estrone and estriol.


Androgens are biosynthesized in the testes of males, while estrogens are produced in the ovaries of females.


Androgens regulate the development and preservation of the male reproductive organs and secondary masculine characteristics. Estrogens are responsible for the maturation and maintenance of the female reproductive system and secondary feminine attributes.