Fetal androgen exposure and pragmatic language ability of girls in middle childhood: implications for the extreme male-brain theory of autism.
ABSTRACT Prenatal exposure to testosterone has been shown to affect fetal brain maturation as well as postnatal cognition and behavior in animal studies. Although there are well-established sex-differences in the use of social communication (or 'pragmatic language') in humans, there has been limited investigation of the association between fetal testosterone exposure and postnatal pragmatic language ability. In this prospective study, pragmatic language skills, assessed using a pragmatic language score (PLS), were measured in 78 girls aged 10 years and correlated with testosterone levels in umbilical cord blood. A measure of the biologically active, 'free' fraction of testosterone, the free androgen index (FAI), was positively correlated with the PLS (R=.3). Regression analyses showed that the FAI was a significant, positive predictor of pragmatic language difficulties in girls after controlling for maternal and infant-health variables (B=0.02, 95% confidence interval=0.01-0.04, p=0.02). This is the first prospective study to identify an association between early life testosterone exposure and pragmatic language difficulties in girls. These novel findings are discussed with reference to the 'extreme male-brain' theory of autism.
Article: Androgen concentrations in umbilical cord blood and their association with maternal, fetal and obstetric factors.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to measure umbilical blood androgen concentrations in a birth cohort using a highly specific liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) assay and assesses the effects of sex, labor, and gestational age on fetal androgen levels at birth. We performed a prospective cohort study of androgen concentrations in mixed arterial and venous umbilical cord serum from 803 unselected singleton pregnancies from a general obstetric population in Western Australia. Total testosterone (TT), Δ4-androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone were extracted from archived cord serum samples and measured using LC-MS/MS. SHBG was measured by ELISA; free testosterone (FT) and bioavailable testosterone (BioT) values were also calculated. Median values for all three androgens were generally lower than previously published values. Levels of TT, FT, BioT, and SHBG were significantly higher in male verses female neonates (P<0.0001), while dehydroepiandrosterone levels were higher in females (P<0.0001). Labor was associated with a significant (∼15-26%) decrease in median cord blood TT and FT levels (both sexes combined), but a modest (∼16-31%) increase in SHBG, Δ4-androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone concentrations. TT and FT were significantly negatively correlated with gestational age at delivery, while SHBG, Δ4-androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone were positively correlated. Antenatal glucocorticoid administration also had a significant effect in the multiple regression models. This is the first study to report umbilical cord androgen levels in a large unselected population of neonates using LC-MS/MS. Our findings suggest that previous studies have over-estimated cord androgen levels, and that fetal, maternal, and obstetric factors influence cord androgen levels differentially. Caution should be exercised when interpreting previously-published data that have not taken all of these factors into account.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(8):e42827. · 4.09 Impact Factor