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The endocrine system orchestrates major developmental, reproductive, and other physiological changes throughout life.  A detailed analysis of hormone suites can provide a better understanding of endocrine health, diseases, and disruptions.


Figure with chemical structures of steroids grouped into four classes by elliptical areas shaded with different colors and arrows indicating synthesis and transformation pathways.

A general steroid hormone synthesis pathway. Different colors represent the traditional classes of steroids. Light Purple: progestogens, Light Green: glucocorticoids Light Blue: androgens, and Pink: estrogens

Credit: NIST

Steroid hormones are signaling molecules that are major regulators of development, reproduction, stress, and growth.  Steroids are synthesized from cholesterol through a series of enzymes, resulting in hormones with distinct biological activities.  Although hormones are similar in structure, and therefore difficult to distinguish, they work in concert to produce a myriad of physiological responses.   

Analytical methods for hormone suites are under development to better understand and monitor endocrine regulation.  NIST scientists have developed mass spectrometry methods for the simultaneous measurement of multiple steroid hormones.  Applications to samples from humans, wildlife, and agricultural stocks facilitate biomarker discovery for medical diagnostics, environmental exposure, and agriculture.

Major Accomplishments

  • Marine mammal blubber was analyzed for steroid hormone suites in order to comprehensively analyze hormones in remotely collected dart biopsies (published)
  • SRM 1949: Frozen Human Prenatal Serum was developed to support metrology needed to assess prenatal health
  • Methods were developed to analyze fish skin mucus to assist in selecting aquacultural brood stocks (published)

Associated Product(s)


  1. Legacki, E. , Peterson, B. , Hamlin, H. and Milligan, M. Schock, T. , Boggs-Russell, A. , (2023), Using skin mucus for the identification of ovulation biomarkers in North American Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), Aquaculture, [online],, (Accessed November 29, 2023)
  2. Dalle Luche, G. , Boggs, A. , Kucklick, J. , Hawker, D. , Wisse, J. and Bengston Nash, S. (2021), Steroid hormone profiles and body conditions of migrating male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), General and Comparative Endocrinology, [online], (Accessed November 29, 2023)
  3. Galligan, T. , Boggs, A. , Balmer, B. , Rowles, T. , Smith, C. , Townsend, F. , Wells, R. , Kellar, N. , Zolman, E. and Schwacke, L. (2019), Blubber steroid hormone profiles as indicators of physiological state in free-ranging common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A-Molecular & Integrative Physiology,
  4. Boggs, A. S. P.; Bowden, J. A.; Galligan, T. M.; Guillette, L. J.; Kucklick, J. R., Development of a multi-class steroid hormone screening method using Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2016, 408 (15), 4179-4190.
Created September 30, 2016, Updated April 19, 2024