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Steroid skeleton of lanosterol. The total number of carbons (30) reflects its triterpenoid origin. In some steroids some carbons may be removed (such as carbon 18) or added (such as carbons 241 and 242) in downstream biosynthetic reactions.

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


A steroid is a terpenoid lipid characterized by a carbon skeleton with four fused rings, generally arranged in a 6-6-6-5 fashion.

Steroids can vary by the functional groups attached to these rings and the oxidation state of the rings. Hundreds of distinct steroids are found in plants, animals, and fungi. All steroids are biosynthetically derived either from the sterol lanosterol (animals and fungi) or the sterol cycloartenol (plants). Both sterols are derived from the cyclization of the triterpene squalene.[1]


Simplified version of the steroid synthesis pathway with the intermediates isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP), dimethylallyl pyrophosphate (DMAPP), geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP) and squalene shown. Some intermediates are omitted.

Steroids include estrogen (US spelling) or oestrogen (UK/AUS spelling), progesterone and testosterone. Oestrogen and progesterone are made primarily in the ovary and in the placenta during pregnancy and testosterone in the testes. Certain neurons and glia in the central nervous system (CNS) express the enzymes that are required for the local synthesis of pregnane neurosteroids, either de novo or from peripherally derived sources.



Some of the common categories of steroids:


It is also possible to classify steroids based upon their chemical composition.

See Also



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