Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is thought to mainly function as a transporter and reservoir for the estradiol and testosterone sex hormones. However it has also been demonstrated that SHBG can bind to a cell surface receptor (SHBG-R). The SHBG-R has not been completely characterized. A subset of steroids are able to bind to the SHBG/SHBG-R complex resulting in an activation of adenylyl cyclase and synthesis of the cAMP second messenger.  Hence the SHBG/SHBG-R complex appears to act as a transmembrane steroid receptor that is capable of transmitting signals to the interior of cells.
Water soluble hormone s, however, act indirectly on target cell s. Since the cell membrane has a lipid bi-layer, it is hydrophobic, or water fearing. This simply means that anything that is water soluble is not getting through. Unlike lipid soluble hormone s, water soluble hormone s have to bind to receptor s on the surface of the target cell . Once the hormone is bound to the receptor , enzyme activity inside the cell is altered. Depending on the hormone , enzyme activity is increased or decreased. Water soluble hormone s include those that are derived from amino acids and polypeptide hormone s.
Depending on the number and character of their functional groups, steroid molecules may show diverse reactivities. Moreover, the reactivity of a functional group varies according to its location within the molecule (for example, esters are formed readily by 3-OH groups but only with difficulty by the 11β-OH group). An important property of steroids is polarity —., their solubility in oxygen-containing solvents (., water and alcohols ) rather than hydrocarbon solvents (., hexane and benzene ). Hydroxyl, ketonic, or ionizable (capable of dissociating to form electrically charged particles) groups in a steroid molecule increase its polarity to an extent that is strongly influenced by the spatial arrangement of the atoms within the molecule.