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Human models of aromatase deficiency.

[aromatase deficiency]

Estrogens exert a wide range of biological effects in both sexes also on non-reproductive systems and organs. Human congenital estrogen deficiency, due to an inactivating mutation of the aromatase gene, leads to the lack of the estrogen synthesis, with gonadotropins and circulating testosterone ranging from normal to elevated. The aromatese-deficient females show hyperandrogenism and virilization at birth with ambiguous genitalia. During childhood there are a dysfunction in the LHRH-LH/FSH axis and a progressive delay in bone age. At puberty they show primary amenorrhea, no breast development, worsening of the virilization and the absence of growth spurt. The clinical phenotype in the male affected subjects comprises tall stature, persistent linear growth and delayed bone age, osteopenia/osteoporosis, eunuchoid body proportion, different degrees of glucose-insulin and of fertility impairment. These phenotypes suggest the physiological role of estrogens on the skeleton, on pituitary function, on the reproductive system, on glucose metabolism, being the precise mechanism on each of these functions not yet known in detail. The estradiol replacement treatment leads to a complete epiphyseal closure and to the skeletal maturation. Moreover, the increasing knowledge on the role of estrogen in several metabolic pathways could be important for a better management of several metabolic diseases.