In humans the circulating concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA sulfate (DHEAS) decrease markedly during aging, and have been implicated in age-associated cognitive decline. This has led to the hypothesis that DHEA supplementation during aging may improve memory. In rodents, a cognitive anti-aging effect of DHEA and DHEAS has been observed but it is unclear whether this effect is mediated indirectly through conversion of these steroids to estradiol. Moreover, despite the demonstration of correlations between endogenous DHEA concentrations and cognitive ability in certain human patient populations, such correlations have yet to be convincingly demonstrated during normal human aging. This review highlights important differences between rodents and primates in terms of their circulating DHEA and DHEAS concentrations, and suggests that age-related changes within the human DHEA metabolic pathway may contribute to the relative inefficacy of DHEA replacement therapies in humans. The review also highlights the value of using nonhuman primates as a pragmatic animal model for testing the therapeutic potential of DHEA for age-associate cognitive decline in humans.
Dehydroepiandrosterone; Cognitive decline; Intracrinology; Neurosteroidogenesis
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) is a steroid hornone that is synthesized, de novo, in the brain. Endogenous DHEAS levels correlate with the quality of mental and physical health, where the highest levels of DHEAS occur in healthy young adults and reduced levels of DHEAS are found with advanced age, disease, or extreme stress. DHEAS supplementation, therefore, may serve as a therapeutic agent against a broad range of maladies. This paper summarizes laboratory findings on dose-response relationships between DHEAS and cognitive and electrophysiological measures of hippocampal functioning. It was found that a low, but not a high, dose of DHEAS enhanced hippocampal primed burst potentiation (a physiological model of memory) as well as spatial (hippocampal-dependent) memory in rats. This complex dose-response function of DHEAS effects on the brain and memory may contribute toward the inconsistent findings that have been obtained by other investigators in studies on DHEAS administration in people.
neurosteroid; dehydroepiandrosterone; DHEA; hippocampus; long-term potentiation; memory
Human aging is characterized by a marked decrease in circulating levels of dehydroepiandrosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), hormonal changes associated with cognitive decline. Despite beneficial effects of DHEA supplementation in rodents, studies in elderly humans have generally failed to show cognitive improvement after treatment. In the present study we evaluate the effects of age and estradiol supplementation on expression of genes involved in the de novo synthesis of DHEA and its conversion to estradiol in the rhesus macaque hippocampus. Using RT-PCR we demonstrate the expression of genes associated with this synthesis in several areas of the rhesus brain. Furthermore, real-time PCR reveals an age-related attenuation of hippocampal expression level of the genes CYP17A1, STS, and 3BHSD1/2. Additionally, short-term administration of estradiol is associated with decreased expression of CYP17A1, STS, SULT2B1, and AROMATASE, consistent with a downregulation not only of estrogen synthesis from circulating DHEA, but also of de novo DHEA synthesis within the hippocampus. These findings suggest a decline in neurosteroidogenesis may account for the inefficacy of DHEA supplementation in elderly humans, and that central steroidogenesis may be a function of circulating hormones and menopausal status.
Aging; Dehydroepiandrosterone; Hormone replacement; Menopause; Neurosteroidogenesis
DHEA and DHEAS are steroids synthesized in human adrenals, but their function is unclear. In addition to adrenal synthesis, evidence also indicates that DHEA and DHEAS are synthesized in the brain, further suggesting a role of these hormones in brain function and development. Despite intensifying research into the biology of DHEA and DHEAS, many questions concerning their mechanisms of action and their potential involvement in neuropsychiatric illnesses remain unanswered. We review and distill the preclinical and clinical data on DHEA and DHEAS, focusing on (i) biological actions and putative mechanisms of action, (ii) differences in endogenous circulating concentrations in normal subjects and patients with neuropsychiatric diseases, and (iii) the therapeutic potential of DHEA in treating these conditions. Biological actions of DHEA and DHEAS include neuroprotection, neurite growth, and antagonistic effects on oxidants and glucocorticoids. Accumulating data suggest abnormal DHEA and/or DHEAS concentrations in several neuropsychiatric conditions. The evidence that DHEA and DHEAS may be fruitful targets for pharmacotherapy in some conditions is reviewed.
Dehydroepiandrosterone; DHEA; DHEAS; neuroprotection; neurogenesis; apoptosis; depression; schizophrenia; dementia; cortisol
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfate form (DHEAS) have been the focus of considerable publicity because of their demonstrated associations with a broad range of health outcomes. Yet, knowledge about the effects of endogenous DHEA(S) on health in humans is limited and often inconclusive, largely because few of the studies have been based on prospective surveys of population-representative samples. This analysis uses a national longitudinal survey in Taiwan to investigate whether DHEAS is associated with subsequent changes (2000–2003) in functional limitations, cognitive impairment, depressive symptoms, and global self-rated health. Multivariate regression models based on this older Taiwanese sample show that among men, lower levels of DHEAS are related to declines in mobility and self-assessed health status and increases in depressive symptoms, while both low and very high levels of DHEAS are associated with poor cognitive function. There are no significant associations among women. These findings differ from those in a previous cross-sectional analysis based on the Taiwan study and underscore the importance of using prospective data to examine the effects of DHEAS on health. The evidence based on this and other longitudinal studies suggests that endogenous DHEAS is related to health outcomes for men, but not women, in both Western and non-Western populations.
Dehydroepiandrosterone; Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; Health; Mental Health; Longitudinal Survey; Aged; Taiwan
The perimenopausal increase in circulating dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) levels during the menopausal transition (MT) is accompanied by other adrenal steroids that have the potential to alter the estrogen/androgen balance and explain the wide inter-woman range of estrogen-related symptoms experienced during the MT.
Annual serum samples from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), which had previously been analyzed for immunoreactive estradiol (E2), testosterone (T), DHEAS and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), were selected based on DHEAS concentration and analyzed for immunoreactive and bioactive estrogens and androgens, including immunoreactive androstenedione (Adione), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and 5-androstene-3β,17β-diol (androstenediol, Adiol).
A two-fold increase in circulating Adione and T was found to rise in parallel with the rise in circulating DHEAS, while DHEA and Adiol concentrations rose seven to eightfold. Circulating Adiol, which has both androgenic and estrogenic biological activity, was significantly associated (p<0.02) with circulating estrogen bioactivity only when E2 concentrations were low and Adiol levels were high.
The wide range of circulating levels of Adiol and its contribution to total circulating estrogenicity during the MT is consistent with the observed inter-woman difference in symptoms at this time. Therefore, we conclude that Adiol contributes to circulating estrogenicity when E2 production falls at menopause and may contribute significantly to the endocrine changes experienced by midlife women.
Androstenediol; estrogenicity; menopause; adrenal
We present results of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to examine the effect of 50 mg daily oral DHEA supplementation for one year on bone mineral density (BMD), bone metabolism and body composition in 225 healthy adults aged 55 to 85 years.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels decline dramatically with age, concurrent with the onset of osteoporosis, suggesting a role for DHEA supplementation in preventing age-related bone loss.
We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to examine the effect of 50 mg daily oral DHEA supplementation for one year on bone mineral density (BMD), bone metabolism and body composition in 225 healthy adults aged 55 to 85 years.
DHEA treatment increased serum DHEA and DHEA sulfate levels to concentrations seen in young adults. Testosterone, estradiol and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels increased in women (all p<0.001), but not men, receiving DHEA. Serum C-terminal telopeptide of type-1 collagen levels decreased in women (p=0.03), but not men, whereas bone-specific alkaline phosphatase levels were not significantly altered in either sex. After 12 months, there was a positive effect of DHEA on lumbar spine BMD in women (p=0.03), but no effect was observed for hip, femoral neck or total body BMD, and no significant changes were observed at any site among men. Body composition was not affected by DHEA treatment in either sex.
Among older healthy adults, daily administration of 50 mg of DHEA has a modest and selective beneficial effect on BMD and bone resorption in women, but provides no bone benefit for men.
Body composition; Bone metabolism; Bone mineral density (BMD); Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels; Placebo-controlled trial; Testosterone
Tuberculosis (TB) remains the most frequent cause of illness and death from an infectious agent, and its interaction with HIV has devastating effects. We determined plasma levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), its circulating form DHEA-suphate (DHEA-s) and cortisol in different stages of M. tuberculosis infection, and explored their role on the Th1 and Treg populations during different scenarios of HIV-TB coinfection, including the immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), a condition related to antiretroviral treatment. DHEA levels were diminished in HIV-TB and HIV-TB IRIS patients compared to healthy donors (HD), HIV+ individuals and HIV+ individuals with latent TB (HIV-LTB), whereas dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-s) levels were markedly diminished in HIV-TB IRIS individuals. HIV-TB and IRIS patients presented a cortisol/DHEA ratio significantly higher than HIV+, HIV-LTB and HD individuals. A positive correlation was observed between DHEA-s and CD4 count among HIV-TB individuals. Conversely, cortisol plasma level inversely correlated with CD4 count within HIV-TB individuals. M. tuberculosis-specific Th1 lymphocyte count was increased after culturing PBMC from HIV-TB individuals in presence of DHEA. We observed an inverse correlation between DHEA-s plasma level and Treg frequency in co-infected individuals, and CD4+FoxP3+ Treg frequency was increased in HIV-TB and IRIS patients compared to other groups. Strikingly, we observed a prominent CD4+CD25-FoxP3+ population across HIV-TB and HIV-TB IRIS patients, which frequency correlated with DHEA plasma level. Finally, DHEA treatment negatively regulated FoxP3 expression without altering Treg frequency in co-infected patients. These data suggest an enhancing role for DHEA in the immune response against M. tuberculosis during HIV-TB coinfection and IRIS.
The current study examines the effect of administering dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on short-term memory. This experiment used a double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over design to explore the effects of a four week regimen of 50 mg oral DHEA on performance on the digit span, verbal span, and Modified Sternberg (Oberauer) tasks. The results demonstrate that the current regimen of drug administration significantly increases serum levels of DHEA, DHEAS, testosterone and estrone and substantially alters the patterns of correlations among the serum levels of these hormones. Despite this substantial change in the hormonal milieu, DHEA administration produced no beneficial effects on cognitive performance in the digit span, verbal span, or modified Sternberg paradigm tasks. Ancillary analyses of the relation between hormone levels and cognitive performance demonstrated a strong positive correlation between DHEA levels and performance on digit span forward/backward and verbal span forward in the placebo drug condition, but not in the DHEA condition. We interpret the juxtaposition of the null results of DHEA administration and the correlation of DHEA levels and performance in the placebo condition to indicate that the referenced correlations arise because a third variable (i.e., age) is associated with both performance and DHEA levels. Additional analyses supported this hypothesis.
Hormone Replacement Therapy; Aging; Short-term Memory; Cognition
Although the clinical interpretation of its results varies greatly among perinatologists, the dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) loading test has become an integral part of fetal monitoring in many centres dealing with high-risk pregnancies. Currently four main metabolic responses to administration of DHEA-S to the mother are monitored to predict the functional state of the fetoplacental unit: the metabolic clearance of DHEA-S, the metabolic clearance of DHEA-S into estradiol, the conversion of DHEA-S into estradiol or esterol, and the increase in the plasma concentrations of DHEA and androstenedione after administration of DHEA-S. This article critically reviews each of these responses and its possible clinical interpretation, and assesses the clinical future of the DHEA-S loading test.
Nearly half of Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans experience continued pain post-deployment. Several investigations report analgesic effects of allopregnanolone and other neurosteroids in animal models, but few data are currently available focusing on neurosteroids in clinical populations. Allopregnanolone positively modulates GABAA receptors and demonstrates pronounced analgesic and anxiolytic effects in rodents, yet studies examining the relationship between pain and allopregnanolone in humans are limited. We thus hypothesized that endogenous allopregnanolone and other neurosteroid levels may be negatively correlated with self-reported pain symptoms in humans.
We determined serum neurosteroid levels by gas chromatography / mass spectrometry (allopregnanolone, pregnenolone) or radioimmunoassay (dehydroepiandrosterone [DHEA], progesterone, DHEA sulfate [DHEAS]) in 90 male veterans who served in the U.S. military after September 11, 2001. Self-reported pain symptoms were assessed in four areas (low back pain, chest pain, muscle soreness, headache). Stepwise linear regression analyses were conducted to investigate the relationship between pain assessments and neurosteroids, with the inclusion of smoking, alcohol use, age, and history of traumatic brain injury as covariates.
Durham VA Medical Center.
Allopregnanolone levels were inversely associated with low back pain (p=0.044) and chest pain (p=0.013), and DHEA levels were inversely associated with muscle soreness (p=0.024). DHEAS levels were positively associated with chest pain (p=0.001). Additionally, there was a positive association between traumatic brain injury and muscle soreness (p=0.002).
Neurosteroids may be relevant to the pathophysiology of self-reported pain symptoms in this veteran cohort, and could represent future pharmacological targets for pain disorders.
neuroactive steroid; allopregnanolone; pregnenolone; DHEA; nociception; pain; neurosteroid
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is commonly used in the USA as a nutritional supplement for antiaging, metabolic support or other uses. Investigations into understanding the effects of DHEA on human prostate cancer progression have posed more questions than answers and highlight the importance of communications between stromal and epithelial elements within the prostate that contribute to the regulation of DHEA metabolism. Intracrine metabolism of DHEA to androgens (A) and/or estrogens (E) may occur in one cell compartment (stromal) which may release paracrine hormones or growth/inhibitory factors to the epithelial cells. Alternatively no metabolism of DHEA may occur, resulting in no harmful consequences of high levels of DHEA in prostate tissues. We herein review the tissue components involved and interactions with the prohormone, DHEA and/or resulting metabolites, including dihydrotestosterone (DHT) or 17β-Estradiol (E2) in an in-vitro model of endocrine-immune-paracrine interactions within the prostate. This work raises questions and hypotheses concerning the role of DHEA in prostate in normal tissues, vs. preneoplastic tissues.
DHEA; TGF β1; Androgen Receptor; Estrogen Receptor; stromal; epithelial prostate; PSA; testosterone; coculture; red clover isoflavones
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) is the most abundant circulating steroid secreted by adrenal glands—yet its function is unknown. Its serum concentration declines significantly with increasing age, which has led to speculation that a relative DHEAS deficiency may contribute to the development of common age-related diseases or diminished longevity. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association data with 14,846 individuals and identified eight independent common SNPs associated with serum DHEAS concentrations. Genes at or near the identified loci include ZKSCAN5 (rs11761528; p = 3.15×10−36), SULT2A1 (rs2637125; p = 2.61×10−19), ARPC1A (rs740160; p = 1.56×10−16), TRIM4 (rs17277546; p = 4.50×10−11), BMF (rs7181230; p = 5.44×10−11), HHEX (rs2497306; p = 4.64×10−9), BCL2L11 (rs6738028; p = 1.72×10−8), and CYP2C9 (rs2185570; p = 2.29×10−8). These genes are associated with type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, actin filament assembly, drug and xenobiotic metabolism, and zinc finger proteins. Several SNPs were associated with changes in gene expression levels, and the related genes are connected to biological pathways linking DHEAS with ageing. This study provides much needed insight into the function of DHEAS.
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), mainly secreted by the adrenal gland, is the most abundant circulating steroid in humans. It shows a significant physiological decline after the age of 25 and diminishes about 95% by the age of 85 years, which has led to speculation that a relative DHEAS deficiency may contribute to the development of common age-related diseases or diminished longevity. Twin- and family-based studies have shown that there is a substantial genetic effect with heritability estimate of 60%, but no specific genes regulating serum DHEAS concentration have been identified to date. Here we take advantage of recent technical and methodological advances to examine the effects of common genetic variants on serum DHEAS concentrations. By examining 14,846 Caucasian individuals, we show that eight common genetic variants are associated with serum DHEAS concentrations. Genes at or near these genetic variants include BCL2L11, ARPC1A, ZKSCAN5, TRIM4, HHEX, CYP2C9, BMF, and SULT2A1. These genes have various associations with steroid hormone metabolism—co-morbidities of ageing including type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, actin filament assembly, drug and xenobiotic metabolism, and zinc finger proteins—suggesting a wider functional role for DHEAS than previously thought.
The concept that adrenal androgen production gradually declines with age has changed following the analysis of the longitudinal data collected in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). It is now recognized that four adrenal androgens (3-beta hydroxy-5-androsten-17-one or dehydroepiandrosterone--DHEA, its sulfate, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate--DHEAS; androst-4-ene, 3,17-dione or androstenedione; and androst-5-ene-3-beta, 17-beta diol, also known as androstenediol or Adiol) rise during the menopausal transition in most women. Ethnic and individual differences in sex steroids are more apparent in circulating adrenal steroids than in either estradiol or cyclic ovarian steroid hormone profiles, particularly during the early and late perimenopause. Thus, adrenal steroid production may play a larger role in the occurrence of symptoms and the potential for healthier aging than previously recognized.
menopausal transition; androgens; adrenal
Alterations in hormone concentrations, including adrenocorticotropin, corticotropin releasing hormone, and cortisol have been reported in patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfated metabolite, DHEA-S, have not been assessed in patients with OCD. We report 24-hour serum DHEA, DHEA-S, and cortisol concentrations in a young man with OCD and 15 healthy young men. Circadian patterns of DHEA and cortisol were markedly different in the subject with OCD than in the control subjects. DHEA and DHEA-S concentrations were substantially higher in the OCD subject than in the control subjects. In contrast, cortisol concentrations were similar in the OCD subject and the control subjects. Future clinical studies are needed to evaluate the significance of DHEA and DHEA-S in OCD.
A rise in circulating dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) concentration occurs during the menopausal transition (MT) that is ovarian-stage but not age-related. The objective of this study was to determine the source of the rise in circulating DHEAS.
Circulating DS concentrations in women that had undergone bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO) were compared to the pattern of circulating DHEAS in women that progressed through the MT naturally. Annual serum samples from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) over a ten year study period were used. From1272 women in the SWAN cohort that were eligible for longitudinal evaluation of DHEAS annual samples, eighty one underwent BSO during the pre- or early-perimenopause stage of the menopausal transition and were potentially available for study. Of these eighty one BSO participants, twenty had sufficient annual samples for evaluation of the post-BSO trajectory of circulating DHEAS. SWAN women not having previous hormone replacement therapy those with intact ovaries were compared to women that underwent a BSO immediately after a pre- or early perimenopausal annual visit. There were no intervention and circulating concentrations of DHEAS was the main outcome.
A detectable rise in DHEAS was observed in fourteen (70%) of the twenty BSO women which is similar to the proportion (85%) of women with intact ovaries that had a detectable DHEAS rise. The mean rise in DHEAS (5-8%) was similar in both BSO and non-BSO women.
The MT rise in DHEAS (5-8%) occurring in the absence of ovaries is largely of adrenal origin.
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; menopause; adrenal; ovary
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a 19-carbon precursor of sex steroids, is abundantly produced in the human but not the mouse adrenal. However, mice produce DHEA and DHEA-sulfate (DHEAS) in the fetal brain. DHEA stimulates axonal growth from specific populations of mouse neocortical neurons in vitro, while DHEAS stimulates dendritic growth from those cells. The synthesis of DHEA and sex steroids, but not mouse glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, requires P450c17, which catalyzes both 17α-hydroxylase and 17,20-lyase activities. We hypothesized that P450c17-knockout mice would have disordered sex steroid synthesis and disordered brain DHEA production and thus provide phenotypic clues about the functions of DHEA in mouse brain development. We deleted the mouse P450c17 gene in 127/SvJ mice and obtained several lines of mice from two lines of targeted embryonic stem cells. Heterozygotes were phenotypically and reproductively normal, but in all mouse lines, P450c17−/− zygotes died by embryonic day 7, prior to gastrulation. The cause of this early lethality is unknown, as there is no known function of fetal steroids at embryonic day 7. Immunocytochemistry identified P450c17 in embryonic endoderm in E7 wild-type and heterozygous embryos, but its function in these cells is unknown. Enzyme assays of wild-type embryos showed a rapid rise in 17-hydroxylase activity between E6 and E7 and the presence of C17,20-lyase activity at E7. Treatment of pregnant females with subcutaneous pellets releasing DHEA or 17-OH pregnenolone at a constant rate failed to rescue P450c17−/− fetuses. Treatment of normal pregnant females with pellets releasing pregnenolone or progesterone did not cause fetal demise. These data suggest that steroid products of P450c17 have heretofore-unknown essential functions in early embryonic mouse development.
A variety of steroids, including pregnenolone sulfate (PREGS) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) are synthesized by specific brain cells, and are then delivered to their target sites, where they exert potent effects on neuronal excitability. The present results demonstrate that [3H]DHEAS and [3H]PREGS are relatively high affinity substrates for the organic solute transporter, OSTα–OSTβ, and that the two proteins that constitute this transporter are selectively localized to steroidogenic cells in the cerebellum and hippocampus, namely the Purkinje cells and cells in the CA region in both mouse and human brain. Analysis of Ostα and Ostβ mRNA levels in mouse Purkinje and hippocampal cells isolated via laser capture microdissection supported these findings. In addition, Ostα-deficient mice exhibited changes in serum dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEAS levels, and in tissue distribution of administered [3H]DHEAS. OSTα and OSTβ proteins were also localized to the zona reticularis of human adrenal gland, the major region for DHEAS production in the periphery. These results demonstrate that OSTα-OSTβ is localized to steroidogenic cells of the brain and adrenal gland, and that it modulates DHEA/DHEAS homeostasis, suggesting that it may contribute to neurosteroid action.
Organic solute transporter; neurosteroid transport; pregnenolone sulfate; dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; Purkinje cells; CA region of the hippocampus
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) is an endogenously produced sex steroid that has been hypothesized to have anti-aging effects. Low DHEAS levels are associated with mortality in older men, but the relationship between DHEAS levels and mortality in women is not clearly defined.
The relationship between serum DHEAS level and 5-year mortality was analyzed in a cohort of 539 disabled women aged 65–100 years enrolled in the Women’s Health and Aging Study I (WHAS I). Using Cox proportional hazard models, we calculated multivariate-adjusted mortality risks by DHEAS quartiles and by DHEAS continuously, allowing for a nonlinear relationship. We also examined cause-specific mortality.
We found a U-shaped relationship between DHEAS level and mortality. After adjusting for multiple covariates, women in the top and bottom DHEAS quartiles had a more than 2-fold higher 5-year mortality than did those in the middle quartiles (hazard ratio, 2.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.17–3.98 for the top quartile and 2.05; 95% CI, 1.27–3.32 for the bottom quartile, each compared to the third quartile). Women with higher DHEAS levels tended to have greater cancer mortality, whereas those with lower DHEAS tended to have greater cardiovascular mortality.
Disabled older women with either low or high levels of DHEAS are at greater risk for death than are those with intermediate levels. More research is needed to determine if targeted dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation would provide clinical benefit to disabled older women.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a weak androgen that exerts pleomorphic effects on the immune system. The hormone has no known receptor, and consequently, the mechanism of action of DHEA on immunocompetent cells remains poorly understood. Interestingly, serum levels of DHEA are decreased in patients with inflammatory disease including lupus, and these levels seem to inversely correlate with disease activity. Following encouraging studies demonstrating beneficial effects of DHEA supplementation in murine lupus models, a number of clinical studies have tested the effect of DHEA administration in lupus patients. DHEA treatment could improve patient’s overall quality of life assessment measures and glucocorticoid requirements in some lupus patients with mild to moderate disease, however, the effect of DHEA on disease activity in lupus patients remains controversial. Long term safety assessment studies are required in light of the reported effect of DHEA supplementation in lowering HDL cholesterol in lupus patients.
The correlation between dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) decline and age led to the hypothesis that DHEAS might be a marker of primary aging, though conflicting data from observational studies of mortality do not support this. We evaluated concurrent DHEAS and functional decline in a very old cohort to test if DHEAS change tracks with functional change during aging.
DHEAS and functional performance (gait speed, grip strength, Modified Mini-Mental State Examination [3MSE] score, and digit symbol substitution test [DSST] score) were measured in 1996–1997 and 2005–2006 in 989 participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars study (mean age 85.2 years in 2005–2006, 63.5% women and 16.5% African American). We used multivariable linear regression to test the association of DHEAS decline with functional decline.
After adjustment, each standard deviation decrease in DHEAS was associated with greater declines in gait speed (0.12 m/s, p = .01), grip strength (0.09 kg, p = .03), 3MSE score (0.13 points, p < .001), and DSST score (0.14 points, p = .001) in women only. Additional adjustment for baseline DHEAS attenuated the association with grip strength but did not alter other estimates appreciably, and baseline DHEAS was unassociated with functional decline.
In this cohort of very old individuals, DHEAS decline tracked with declines in gait speed, 3MSE score, and DSST score, but not grip strength, in women independent of baseline DHEAS level. DHEAS decline might be a marker for age-associated performance decline, but its relevance is specific to women.
Aging; Biomarker; Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; Function
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an endogenous steroid that blocks carcinogenesis, retards aging, and exerts antiproliferative properties. In vitro, it is a potent inhibitor of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, the first committed step of the pentose phosphate pathway. In man, serum levels of DHEA and its sulfate peak in early adulthood and drop markedly with age. Epidemiologic evidence indicates that low levels of DHEA or its sulfate conjugate are linked to an increased risk of developing cancer or of death from cardiovascular disease. Like cancer, atherosclerosis is a proliferative process characterized by both initiation and promotion phases. This similarity provided a framework in which to study the antiatherogenic effects of DHEA. Rabbits were randomly assigned to four groups. Two groups of rabbits received aortic endothelial injury by balloon catheter and were fed a 2% cholesterol diet for 12 wk. DHEA, 0.5%, was incorporated into the diet of one group receiving the 2% cholesterol diet and endothelial injury and also into the diet of one of the control groups. Animals were killed after 12 wk and aortas, hearts, and livers were studied. Plasma samples were analyzed for total cholesterol, VLDL, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, DHEA, and DHEA-sulfate levels. The atherogenic insult resulted in severe atherosclerosis in animals not treated with DHEA. In those receiving DHEA there was an almost 50% reduction in plaque size (P = 0.006), inversely related to the serum level of DHEA attained. Fatty infiltration of the heart and liver were also markedly reduced. These beneficial actions were not attributable to differences in body weight gain, food intake, total plasma cholesterol or distribution of cholesterol among the VLDL, LDL, or HDL fractions. The results show that high levels of plasma DHEA inhibit the development of atherosclerosis and they provide an important experimental link to the epidemiologic studies correlating low DHEA-sulfate plasma levels with an enhanced risk of cardiovascular mortality.
The human adrenal reticularis produces the so-called adrenal androgens, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA-sulfate (DHEA-S). As opposed to the cortisol and aldosterone little is known regarding the mechanisms that regulate the production of the adrenal androgens. Several recent studies have shown that type II 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD3B2), cytochrome b5 (CYB5), and steroid sulfotransferase (SULT2A1) play an important role in the regulation of adrenal androgen production. Specifically, adrenal production of DHEA-S is correlated with reticularis expression of SULT2A1 and CYB5. In contrast, HSD3B2 has an inverse correlation with adrenal androgen production likely due to its unique ability to remove precursors from the pathway leading to DHEA. Therefore, its expression is limited to the adrenal glomerulosa/fasciculata but not in reticularis. The differential expression of these three proteins appears to be critical for reticularis function. In this review, we focus on studies that have begun to define the mechanisms regulating the transcription of these genes. Understanding the mechanisms controlling differential expression of these proteins should provide novel information about the human adrenal reticularis and its production of DHEA and DHEA-S.
Adrenal; Androgen; Cytochrome b5; DHEA-sulfotransferase; 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
DHEA is the major precursor of human sex steroid synthesis and is inactivated via sulfonation to DHEAS. A previous genome-wide association study related the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2637125, located near the coding region of DHEA sulfotransferase, SULT2A1, to serum DHEAS concentrations. However, the functional relevance of this SNP with regard to DHEA sulfonation is unknown. Using data from 3300 participants of the population-based cohort Study of Health in Pomerania, we identified 43 individuals being homozygote for the minor allele of the SNP rs2637125 (AA) and selected two sex- and age-matched individuals with AG and GG genotype (n=172) respectively. Steroid analysis including measurement of serum DHEA and DHEAS was carried out by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry, employing steroid oxime analysis for enhancing the sensitivity of DHEA detection. We applied quantile regression models to compare median hormone levels across SULT2A1 genotypes. Median comparisons by SULT2A1 genotype (AA vs AG and GG genotypes respectively) showed no differences in the considered hormones including DHEAS, DHEA, androstenedione, as well as cortisol and cortisone concentrations. SULT2A1 genotype also had no effect on the DHEA/DHEAS ratio. Sex-stratified analyses, as well as alternative use of the SULT2A1 SNP rs182420, yielded similar negative results. Genetic variants of SULT2A1 do not appear to have an effect on individual DHEA and DHEAS concentrations or the DHEA/DHEAS ratio as a marker of DHEA sulfonation capacity.
DHEAS; steroids; genome-wide association study; genetics; epidemiology
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) has been proposed as an antiaging hormone, but its importance is unclear. Assessment of an individual’s ability to maintain a DHEAS set point, through examination of multiple DHEAS levels over time, may provide insight into biologic aging.
Using Cox proportional hazard models, we examined the relationship between DHEAS trajectory patterns and all-cause death in 950 individuals aged ≥65 years who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study and had DHEAS levels measured at three to six time points.
Overall, there was a slight decline in DHEAS levels over time (−0.013 μg/mL/y). Three trajectory components were examined: slope, variability, and baseline DHEAS. When examined individually, a steep decline or extreme variability in DHEAS levels was associated with higher mortality (p < .001 for each), whereas baseline DHEAS level was not. In adjusted models including all three components, steep decline (hazard ratio [HR] 1.75, confidence interval [CI] 1.32–2.33) and extreme variability (HR 1.89, CI 1.47–2.43) remained significant predictors of mortality, whereas baseline DHEAS level remained unpredictive of mortality (HR 0.97 per standard deviation, CI 0.88–1.07). The effect of trajectory pattern was more pronounced in men than in women. Individuals with both a steep decline and extreme variability in DHEAS levels had a significantly higher death rate than those with neither pattern (141 vs 48 deaths per 1,000 person-years, p < .001).
Our data show significant heterogeneity in the individual trajectories of DHEAS levels and suggest that these trajectories provide important biologic information about the rate of aging, whereas the DHEAS level itself does not.
DHEA; DHEAS; Mortality; Aging; Elderly