Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman


  • Sarah AldredEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_867-2



A steroid or steroid hormone is a biomolecule derived from cholesterol, with a characteristic structure containing four fused rings (see Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Structure and carbon numbering scheme for cholesterol and other steroids

Cholesterol is the precursor for five major classes of steroid hormones: progestagens, glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids, androgens, and estrogens. These hormones are powerful signaling molecules that are released in order to elicit a specific response.

Androgens, such as testosterone, are responsible for the development of male sex characteristics, whereas estrogens are responsible for the development of female sex characteristics. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the most abundant circulating steroid in humans, and is a precursor for the sex hormones, testerosterone and estradiol. In addition, DHEA is a cortisol antagonist.

Glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, promote the formation of glycogen and inhibit the inflammatory response. They enable humans (and animals) to respond to stress.

Steroids act by interaction with cellular receptors that serve as transcription factors to regulate gene expression. Steroids are incredibly potent and elicit very specific responses due to their interaction with steroid receptors.


References and Further Reading

  1. Berg, J. M., Tymoczko, J. L., & Stryer, L. (2002). Biochemistry (5th ed.). New York: WH Freeman.Google Scholar
  2. Nussey, S., & Whitehead, S. (2001). Endocrinology. Oxford: BIOS Scientific Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sport and Exercise SciencesThe University of BirminghamEdgbaston, BirminghamUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Anna C. Whittaker
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK