This one-two punch of decreasing testosterone and increasing cortisol blunts the status drive. Scientists believe humans, as well as other animals, evolved this response as a survival mechanism. If an animal gets beaten in a status competition, it won’t do him any good to keep fighting over and over just to get squashed again and again. Better to just retreat to his cave, lick his wounds, and live to fight another day. What’s interesting is while the cortisol response to status defeat occurs in both men and women, it’s much stronger in men , particularly when the status is achievement related. We’ll discuss why that is in a later article in this series about the evolution of status.
Testosterone is metabolised to various 17-keto steroids through two different pathways. The major active metabolites of testosterone are oestradiol and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Testosterone is metabolised to DHT by steroid 5α reductase located in the skin, liver and the urogenital tract of the male. DHT binds with greater affinity to SHBG than does testosterone. In many tissues, the activity of testosterone depends on its reduction to DHT, which binds to cytosol receptor proteins. The steroid-receptor complex is transported to the nucleus where it initiates transcription and cellular changes related to androgen action. In reproductive tissues, DHT is further metabolised to 3- α and 3-β androstanediol.