Serum androgen bioactivity during 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone treatment in elderly men.
ABSTRACT The androgens used in the treatment of age-related androgen decline have different bioactivities that cannot be evaluated with conventional detection methods for serum steroids. We have recently developed a recombinant cell bioassay for the determination of androgen bioactivity in human serum that is based on androgen-specific interaction between the ligand-binding domain (LBD) and the N-terminal region of the androgen receptor (AR). In this work, we examined the effect of topically applied 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT; 7.5-10 g of 2.5% DHT gel daily for 6 months) on circulating androgen bioactivity in 14 men (age range, 51-63 years) with symptoms of andropause and pretreatment serum testosterone less than 15 nM, or serum sex hormone-binding globulin concentration greater than 30 nM, or both. The mean (+/-SEM) pretreatment androgen bioactivity was 3.3 +/- 0.3 nM testosterone equivalents, and the levels correlated with serum testosterone concentration (r =.55, P <.05). DHT gel treatment induced a sixfold increase (from 1.5 +/- 0.1 nM to 9.0 +/- 0.7 nM) in mean serum DHT level, whereas endogenous testosterone and estradiol levels measured with radioimmunoassays were suppressed by approximately 70% and approximately 50%, respectively (P <.0001). Concomitantly, serum androgen bioactivity increased by sevenfold (from 3.3 +/- 0.3 to 23.6 +/- 2.8 nM testosterone equivalents; P <.0001). We conclude that DHT gel therapy in elderly men significantly increases their circulating androgen bioactivity as measured with a mammalian cell bioassay. An androgen-specific bioassay such as ours may enable investigation of other androgens with different bioactivities, such as selective AR modulators.