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Steroid hormones

Steroid hormones are a group of structurally linked hormones. These organic compounds are responsible for myriad and important physiological functions in the body, including development and management of sex and growth characteristics.

Steroid hormones are lipophilic; meaning, they are lipid (fat)-soluble molecules. All steroid hormones are also derived form cholesterol, with the latter acting as the precursor for this group of hormones.

Steroid hormones are classified into five classes, namely: estrogens, progesterones, mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and androgens. Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids are sometimes lumped together as corticoids.

Each of these steroid hormones fulfills different but equally important functions in the body. The steroid hormones androgens and estrogens are vital hormones in the sexual development and function in mammals. Progesterones and estrogens are typically linked with the female reproductive functions, such as menstrual cycles and ovulation. Mineralocorticoids are largely involved in kidney functions, such as excretion of salt and water. Glucocorticoids, meanwhile, are responsible in lipid, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism.       

Steroid hormones exert the above-mentioned functions by causing changes within the cell. Because of their structural properties (i.e., fat-solubility) steroid hormones can pass through the cell membrane to bind with specific receptor found only in the cytoplasm of the target cell.