We review research on the 16-androstenes and their special claim, born originally of the finding that androstenes function as boar pheromones, to be human chemosignals. Microbial fauna in human axillae act upon the 16-androstenes to produce odorous volatiles. Both individual variation and sex differences in perception of these odors suggest that they may play a role in mediating social behavior, and there is now much evidence that they modulate changes in interpersonal perception, and individual mood, behavior, and physiology. Many of these changes are sensitive to the context in which the compounds are experienced. However, many key outstanding questions remain. These include identification of the key active compounds, better quantification of naturally occurring concentrations and understanding how experimentally administered concentrations elicit realistic effects, and elucidation of individual differences (e.g., sex differences) in production rates. Until such issues are addressed, the question of whether the androstenes play a special role in human interactions will remain unresolved.
Havlicek, J., Murray, A. K., Saxton, T. K., & Roberts, S. C. (2010). Chapter three - Current issues in the study of androstenes in human chemosignaling. Vitamins & Hormones, 83, 47-81. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0083-6729(10)83003-1