Observations performed in a subset of patients treated for male pattern hair loss indicate that persistent sexual side effects as well as anxious/depressive symptomatology have been reported even after discontinuation of finasteride treatment. Due to the capability of finasteride to block the metabolism of progesterone (PROG) and/or testosterone (T) we have evaluated, by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, the levels of several neuroactive steroids in paired plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples obtained from post-finasteride patients and in healthy controls. At the examination, post-finasteride patients reported muscular stiffness, cramps, tremors and chronic fatigue in the absence of clinical evidence of any muscular disorder or strength reduction. Although severity of the anxious/depressive symptoms was quite variable in their frequency, overall all the subjects had a fairly complex and constant neuropsychiatric pattern. Assessment of neuroactive steroid levels in CSF showed a decrease of PROG and its metabolites, dihydroprogesterone (DHP) and tetrahydroprogesterone (THP), associated with an increase of its precursor pregnenolone (PREG). Altered levels were also observed for T and its metabolites. Thus, a significant decrease of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) associated with an increase of T as well as of 3α-diol was detected. Changes in neuroactive steroid levels also occurred in plasma. An increase of PREG, T, 3α-diol, 3β-diol and 17β-estradiol was associated with decreased levels of DHP and THP. The present observations show that altered levels of neuroactive steroids, associated with depression symptoms, are present in androgenic alopecia patients even after discontinuation of the finasteride treatment. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Sex steroids and brain disorders'.
As a mitochondrial P450 system, P450c11 is dependent on two electron transfer proteins, adrenodoxin reductase and adrenodoxin that transfer 2 electrons from NADPH to the P450 for each monooxygenase reaction catalyzed by the enzyme. In most respects this process of electron transfer appears similar to that of P450scc system that catalyzes cholesterol side chain cleavage.  Similar to P450scc the process of electrons transfer is leaky leading to superoxide production. The rate of electron leakage during metabolism depends on the functional groups of the steroid substrate.