Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is a multifunctional protein that acts in humans to regulate the response to steroids at several junctures. It was originally described as a hepatically secreted protein that is the major binding protein for sex steroids in plasma, thereby regulating the availability of free steroids to hormone-responsive tissues. SHBG also functions as part of a novel steroid-signaling system that is independent of the classical intracellular steroid receptors. Unlike the intracellular steroid receptors that are ligand-activated transcription factors, SHBG mediates androgen and estrogen signaling at the cell membrane by way of cAMP. We have reviewed the current state of knowledge on the SHBG gene and the role of SHBG in steroid signaling (we shall not address its function as a plasma-binding protein).
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