Introduction

This chapter deals with the structural chemistry and biosynthetic pathways of the major classes of steroid hormones. All have a complicated structure of fused rings, which can be modified by functional group substitution at many points. Furthermore, the presence of asymmetric carbon atoms introduces steric modifications and isomeric possibilities. The reader will find it prudent first to grasp the essential features of the steroid structures and relationships before attempting to delve into the discussion of specific hormonal activities in later chapters. Then, when so doing, it may be helpful to turn back to the appropriate portion of this chapter to heighten understanding of the structures of the hormones under review.

A. General Comments

The first steroid hormone, estrone, was isolated in 1929 at a time before the characteristic ring structure of the steroid nucleus had been elucidated. Today well over 225 naturally occurring steroids have been isolated and chemically characterized. In addition, an uncountable number of steroids and steroid analogs have been chemically synthesized.

HORMONES, SECOND EDITION

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