Estrogen and progesterone

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Estrogen and progesterone


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USMLE® Step 1 questions

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High Yield Notes

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Estrogen and progesterone

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USMLE® Step 1 style questions USMLE

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Estrogen and progesterone are the female sex hormones and are produced mainly by the ovaries. Which of the following enzymes are involved in the conversion of testosterone to estradiol?  

External References

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Adrenal cortex p. 333

progesterone production p. 654


progesterone levels after p. 654

Corpus luteum p. 656

progesterone production p. 654

Endometrial hyperplasia p. 665

progesterone and p. 654

Estrogen p. 654, 680

progesterone and p. 654

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

progesterone and p. 654

Lactation p. 654

progesterone and p. 654

Luteinizing hormone (LH)

estrogen/progesterone p. 654

Ovulation p. 655

progesterone and p. 654

Placenta p. 641

progesterone production p. 654

Progesterone p. 654

ganulosa cell tumors p. 671

lactation and p. 654

menstrual cycle p. 656

ovulation p. 655

pregnancy p. 657

signaling pathways for p. 353

Testes p. 648

progesterone production p. 654


Estrogen and progesterone are the female sex hormones, and they’re produced mainly by the ovaries - the female gonads.

The female body can synthesize 3 types of estrogens: estradiol, estrone and estriol.

Of the three, the ovaries synthesize estradiol, which is the most biologically active of them all, and accounts for the majority of sex-specific changes that begin in puberty - like monthly ovulation and menstruation as well as the development of the secondary sex characteristics.

Small amounts of estrogen are also produced by the adrenal cortex and fat cells in adipose tissue, and the placenta secretes these hormones during pregnancy, as well.

But during the reproductive period, it’s the ovaries that produce the majority of estrogen and progesterone in the female body.

Before puberty, the hypothalamus secretes small amounts of a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRH.

That GnRH travels to the nearby pituitary, which secretes two hormones of its own - follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, and luteinizing hormone, or LH.

Once puberty hits, the hypothalamus starts to secrete GnRH in pulses, sometimes more and sometimes less, and FSH and LH make the ovarian follicles develop and secrete hormones.

The ovarian follicles are scattered throughout the ovaries, and each ovarian follicle is made up of a ring of follicular cells surrounding a primary oocyte at its core.


Estrogen and progesterone are the Main sex female hormones produced by the ovaries during the reproductive period, and the placenta during pregnancy. Estrogen helps regulating female growth and development of the reproductive system, development of the endometrium, prevention of osteoporosis, and cardiovascular risk diseases in females.


  1. "Medical Physiology" Elsevier (2016)
  2. "Physiology" Elsevier (2017)
  3. "Human Anatomy & Physiology" Pearson (2018)
  4. "Principles of Anatomy and Physiology" Wiley (2014)
  5. "Biochemistry of aromatase: significance to female reproductive physiology" Cancer Res (1982)
  6. "Androgen production in women" Fertil Steril (2002)
  7. "Progesterone and Testosterone Hydroxylation by Cytochromes P450 2C19, 2C9, and 3A4 in Human Liver Microsomes" Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics (1997)

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