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The polymorphic androgen receptor gene CAG repeat, pituitary–testicular function and andropausal symptoms in ageing men


 Kati Härkönen, Piispankadi, 4E29, 20500 Turku, Finland. E-mail:


The activity of androgen receptor (AR) is modulated by a polymorphic CAG trinucleotide repeat in the AR gene. In the present study, we investigated hormonal changes among ageing men, and whether the number of AR CAG triplets is related to the appearance of these changes, as well as symptoms and diseases associated with ageing. A total of 213 41–70-year-old men donated blood for hormone analyses (LH, testosterone, oestradiol and SHBG) and answered questions concerning diseases and symptoms associated with ageing and/or androgen deficiency. Of these men, 172 donated blood for the measurement of the CAG repeat length of AR. The CAG repeat region of the AR gene was amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and the products were sized on polyacrylamide gels. The repeat number was analysed as a dichotomized variable divided according to cut-off limits of the lowest (≤20 repeats) and the highest quartile (≥23 repeats), and as a continuous variable. The proportion of men with serum LH in the uppermost quartile (>6.0 IU/L) with normal serum testosterone (>9.8 nmol/L, above the lowest 10%) increased significantly with age (p = 0.01). There were fewer men with this hormonal condition among those with CAG repeat number in the uppermost quartile (≥23 repeats) (p = 0.03). These men also reported less decreased potency (p < 0.05). The repeat number was positively correlated with depression, as expressed by the wish to be dead (r = 0.45; p < 0.0001), depressed mood (r = 0.23; p = 0.003), anxiety (r = 0.15; p < 0.05), deterioration of general well-being (r = 0.22; p = 0.004), as well as decreased beard growth (r = 0.49; p < 0.0001). A hormonal condition where serum testosterone is normal but LH increased is a frequent finding in male ageing. Only certain types of age-related changes in ageing men were associated with the length of the AR gene CAG repeat, suggesting that this parameter may play a role in setting different thresholds for the array of androgen actions in the male.

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