From the article:
He already knew that testosterone had a protective effect on males, just as estrogen and progesterone do on females. He also knew that most testosterone was converted into estrogen in the brain. What he didn’t know was that those anxiety- and depression-inhibiting effects couldn’t be produced unless the testosterone was first converted to estrogen.
“There is an enzyme in the brain that ‘mediates’ the conversion of testosterone into estrogen,” Kabbaj said. “We inhibited that enzyme in a specific brain area implicated in the regulation of mood. And when you do that, you lose the antidepressant effect of testosterone. So the conversion is very important.”
His lab targeted the hippocampus area of the brain, where testosterone acts through what’s known as the MAPK pathway to induce its antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
“But we have to be careful about that pathway,” Kabbaj said, “because it’s also implicated in cellular growth and cancer. Therefore, we’re looking for other pathways that don’t have these effects. It’s complicated. Nothing is ever simple, but we’ll get there.”