Incubation of human testicular homogenates with [4-14C]pregnenolone gave substantial amounts of an unknown metabolite within 1 min, reaching plateau values of 17-23% of total radioactivity added within 5 min. Mass spectrometry of the metabolite showed it to be identical to the boar sex pheromone precursor androsta-5, 16-diene-3 beta-ol (ADL). In cell cultures the major source of ADL and its dehydrogenated metabolite androsta-4, 16-diene-3-one (ADN) was the Leydig cell. In rat and monkey testicular homogenates 16-ene-synthetase activity, a prerequisite for the synthesis of ADL and ADN, was completely lacking, limiting the presence of 16-androstenes to boars and men. In contrast to boars, however, in the human testis no 5 alpha-reductase activity was found and consequently no 5 alpha-reduced-16-androstenes, e.g. androstenol (AL, musk like) and androstenone (AN, urine like), known sex pheromones in pigs. As both sex pheromones have been identified in urine, plasma, sweat and saliva of men and (especially hirsute) women we hypothesize that AL and AN are synthesized from ADL via ADN peripherically in tissues rich in 5 alpha-reductase, i.e. skin, axillary sweat glands and probably also the salivary glands. So far, there is some evidence that both sex pheromones may have similar functions in humans as in boars.