Aromatase is a member of the cytochrome P450 superfamily, whose function is to produce estrogens by aromatizing androgens. The primary function of Aromatase is to convert androstenedione to estrone and testosterone to estradiol. This protein is also a key enzyme in steroidogenesis, specifically for the biosynthesis of estrogens. Because estrogens also promote certain cancers and other diseases, aromatase inhibitors are frequently used to treat such diseases. It also plays an important role in sexual differentiation, fertility, and carcinogenesis.
Aromatase is localized in the endoplasmic reticulum of the cell and its activity is regulated by tissue specific promoters that are in turn controlled by hormones, cytokines, and other factors. It can be found in many tissues reproductive tissues including gonads, brain, adipose tissue, placenta, blood vessels, skin, bone, endometrium as well as in tissue of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer.
Many environmental chemicals may influence aromatase activity and thereby disrupt endocrine function. The activity is increased by environmental factors such as age, obesity, insulin, gonadotropins, and alcohol but decreased by prolactin, anti-m llerian hormone, and smoking.