Sex steroid levels temporarily increase in response to acute psychosocial stress in healthy men and women.Int J Psychophysiol 2012; 84(3):246-53IJ
It is well known that acute psychosocial stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). However, the effect of acute psychosocial stress on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis and levels of sex steroids are less known. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of acute psychosocial stress on serum concentrations of sex steroids in healthy men and women. Twenty men and 19 women (age 30-50 years) underwent Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), a tool for investigating psychobiological stress responses in a laboratory setting. Blood samples were collected before, directly after the stress test, and after 30 min of recovery. Concentrations of androgens were measured with high specificity LC-MS/MS method; concentrations of cortisol, estradiol and sex hormone-binding globulin were determined using immunoassays. In both men and women we observed significantly elevated levels of testosterone, estradiol, androstenedione and sex hormone binding globulin along with significantly increased adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), serum cortisol, heart rate, systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) as a response to the stressor. Thus, even though the HPG axis and the production of sex steroids may be inhibited during prolonged periods of stress, the sex steroid levels may increase in the initial phase of acute psychosocial stress.