Early morning plasma testosterone is an accurate predictor of imminent pubertal development in prepubertal boys

F. C W Wu, D. C. Brown, G. E. Butler, H. F. Stirling, C. J H Kelnar

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    In the management of constitutional delayed growth and/or puberty, there is a need for simple tests which can assess the overall developmental maturity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis in clinically prepubertal patients. This would enable the physician to predict the likelihood or otherwise of an individual entering puberty spontaneously within subsequent months. Based on our previous physiological data on the sequential pattern of peripubertal pituitary-testicular activation by hypothalamic GnRH, we hypothesized that the nocturnal secretion of testosterone, in response to sleep-entrained LH secretion, may provide a basis for an in vivo bioassay of neuroendocrine sexual maturity. Overnight testosterone secretion by the testis in clinically prepubertal boys was assessed with respect to their subsequent clinical progress, the target being the attainment of testicular volumes of greater than or equal to 4 mL (a clinical landmark when puberty has assuredly begun and virilization will soon follow). Forty-five prepubertal (Tanner stage G1PH1 testicular volume ≤2 mL) boys aged 10.0-15.3 yr (mean ± SEM 11.8 ± 0.2) with short stature had paired plasma T concentration measured at 2000 h and 0800 h the following morning. After the initial assessment, all patients were reviewed clinically at 3-month intervals for a minimum of 21 months (mean 26.0 ± 1.1, range 21-50 months). During this period, 38 (84.4%) patients received treatment in the form of sc human GH 2-4 IU daily or oxandrolone 2.5 mg daily by mouth to improve short-term growth although this did not have any significant effect on the subsequent timing of pubertal onset. The patients were divided according to whether 1) there was a demonstrable increase in plasma T between 2000 and 0800 h and 2) morning plasma T concentration was less than or greater than or equal to 0.7 nmol/L at their initial assessment. In those with a significant overnight T increment, 58% and 89% achieved testicular volume of greater than or equal to 4 mL after 12 and 21 months, respectively. In contrast, only 12% and 56% of patients who had not shown a T increase went into puberty by these times. In patients who had morning plasma testosterone concentrations greater than or equal to 0.7 nmol/L, 77% entered puberty within 12 months and 100% within 15 months. However, in those with a morning testosterone of less than 0.7 nmol/L, only 12.5% and 25% entered puberty within 12 and 15 months, respectively. Demonstration of the overnight secretion of testosterone in clinically prepubertal boys can therefore distinguish a more mature subgroup who will progress into puberty from those whose pubertal onset is relatively delayed. A single measurement of plasma T in the early morning, therefore, is a simple test which can reliably predict imminent clinical pubertal onset within the ensuing 12 to 15 months in prepubertal boys.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)26-31
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 1993


    • Adolescent
    • Biological Markers/blood
    • Child
    • Circadian Rhythm
    • Cohort Studies
    • Follow-Up Studies
    • Growth Disorders/*blood/drug therapy
    • Growth Hormone/therapeutic use
    • Humans
    • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System/physiology
    • Male
    • Oxandrolone/therapeutic use
    • Puberty/*blood
    • Puberty, Delayed/*blood/drug therapy/physiopathology
    • Recombinant Proteins/therapeutic use
    • Testis/*anatomy & histology/physiology
    • Testosterone/*blood


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