Jonneke J Hollanders, Bibian van der Voorn, Noera Kieviet, Koert M Dolman, Yolanda B de Rijke, Erica L T van den Akker, Joost Rotteveel, Adriaan Honig and Martijn J J Finken
Glucocorticoids (GCs) measured in neonatal hair might reflect intrauterine as well as postpartum GC regulation. We aimed to identify factors associated with neonatal hair GC levels in early life, and their correlation with maternal hair GCs.
In a single-center observational study, mother–infant pairs (n = 107) admitted for >72 h at the maternity ward of a general hospital were included. At birth and an outpatient visit (OPV, n = 72, 44 ± 11 days postpartum), maternal and neonatal hair was analyzed for cortisol and cortisone levels by LC–MS/MS. Data were analyzed regarding: (1) neonatal GC levels postpartum and at the OPV, (2) associations of neonatal GC levels with maternal GC levels and (3) with other perinatal factors.
(1) Neonatal GC levels were >5 times higher than maternal levels, with a decrease in ±50% between birth and the OPV for cortisol. (2) Maternal and neonatal cortisol, but not cortisone, levels were correlated both at postpartum and at the OPV. (3) Gestational age was associated with neonatal GC postpartum (log-transformed β (95% CI): cortisol 0.07 (0.04–0.10); cortisone 0.04 (0.01–0.06)) and at the OPV (cortisol 0.08 (0.04–0.12); cortisone 0.00 (−0.04 to 0.04)), while weaker associations were found between neonatal GCs and other perinatal and maternal factors.
Neonatal hair GCs mainly reflect the third trimester increase in cortisol, which might be caused by the positive feedback loop, a placenta-driven phenomenon, represented by the positive association with GA. Between birth and 1.5 months postpartum, neonatal hair cortisol concentrations decrease sharply, but still appear to reflect both intra- and extrauterine periods.
Britt J van Keulen, Conor V Dolan, Bibian van der Voorn, Ruth Andrew, Brian R Walker, Hilleke Hulshoff Pol, Dorret I Boomsma, Joost Rotteveel and Martijn J J Finken
Sex differences in disease susceptibility might be explained by sexual dimorphism in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, which has been postulated to emerge during puberty. However, studies conducted thus far lacked an assessment of Tanner pubertal stage. This study aimed to assess the contribution of pubertal development to sexual dimorphism in cortisol production and metabolism.
Participants (n = 218) were enrolled from a population-based Netherlands Twin Register. At the ages of 9, 12 and 17 years, Tanner pubertal stage was assessed and early morning urine samples were collected. Cortisol metabolites were measured with GC-MS/MS and ratios were calculated, representing cortisol metabolism enzyme activities, such as A-ring reductases, 11β-HSDs and CYP3A4. Cortisol production and metabolism parameters were compared between sexes for pre-pubertal (Tanner stage 1), early pubertal (Tanner stage 2–3) and late-pubertal (Tanner stage 4–5) stages.
Cortisol metabolite excretion rate decreased with pubertal maturation in both sexes, but did not significantly differ between sexes at any pubertal stage, although in girls a considerable decrease was observed between early and late-pubertal stage (P < 0.001). A-ring reductase activity was similar between sexes at pre- and early pubertal stages and was lower in girls than in boys at late-pubertal stage. Activities of 11β-HSDs were similar between sexes at pre-pubertal stage and favored cortisone in girls at early and late-pubertal stages. Cytochrome P450 3A4 activity did not differ between sexes.
Prepubertally, sexes were similar in cortisol parameters. During puberty, as compared to boys, in girls the activities of A-ring reductases declined and the balance between 11β-HSDs progressively favored cortisone. In addition, girls showed a considerable decrease in cortisol metabolite excretion rate between early and late-pubertal stages. Our findings suggest that the sexual dimorphism in cortisol may either be explained by rising concentrations of sex steroids or by puberty-induced changes in body composition.