Sex Steroids and Major Psychoses: Which Role for DHEA-S and Progesterone

Massimiliano Buoli, Alice Caldiroli, Marta Serati, Silvia Grassi, A. Carlo Altamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Endocrine pathways seem to play a role in the etiology of major psychoses. The identification of biomarkers associated with psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia (SKZ) and mood disorders would allow the identification of high-risk subjects for delusions and hallucinations. The aim of this study was to evaluate dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) and progesterone plasma levels in drug-free patients with major psychoses and their relation with the diagnosis and history of psychotic symptoms. Methods: Eighty-nine consecutive drug-free male inpatients with SKZ or mood disorders were recruited, and DHEA-S and progesterone plasma levels were measured. The groups, divided according to pathological/normal-range hormone levels, were compared in terms of clinical variables using χ2 tests with Bonferroni's corrections or multivariate analyses of variance. The same analyses were performed for groups divided according to the presence/absence of lifetime psychotic symptoms. Binary logistic regression analysis was performed using hormone levels as independent variables and history of lifetime psychotic symptoms as a dependent one. Results: A higher number of patients with abnormal DHEA-S levels was found to have a family history of major depressive disorder (p <0.05). Higher DHEA-S levels (F = 8.31; p = 0.005) were found in patients with a history of psychotic symptoms. In addition, binary logistic regression confirmed that DHEA-S levels were associated with a higher probability of lifetime psychotic symptoms (p = 0.037). Conclusions: Our results confirm previous data about the role of endocrine factors in the etiology of major psychoses. A high DHEA-S level might be a risk factor for psychotic symptoms. Studies with larger samples are needed to confirm these data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-183
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate
  • Major psychoses
  • Neuroendocrine biomarkers#
  • Progesterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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