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Chronobiol Int. 2007;24(5):969-90.

Diurnal and seasonal cortisol, testosterone, and DHEA rhythms in boys and girls during puberty.

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Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, Pennsylvania 16601, USA.


Diurnal and seasonal rhythms of cortisol, testosterone, and DHEA were examined, as little is known about the relationship between these rhythmicities and pubertal development. Salivary samples were obtained from 60 boys and 60 girls at approximately 07:45, 08:00, 08:30, 12:00, 16:50, and 21:00 h. The participants' ages ranged from 8-14 yrs, and each participant was tested three times at six-month intervals. The study was conducted at a General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) and at the homes of the participants. All hormones showed diurnal fluctuations. The acrophase (peak time) of cortisol occurred earlier than for testosterone or DHEA and showed a seasonal effect, with the acrophase occurring earlier in spring than in summer. The cortisol acrophase also occurred later in the day for boys than for girls during later puberty. Seasonal effects were found only for cortisol with higher concentrations in the spring and summer. Cortisol concentrations were relatively stable across pubertal maturation, but significantly lower concentrations were observed at pubertal stage 3 compared to the other stages. Morning cortisol levels were also higher in boys at pubertal stage 2. Testosterone concentrations were higher in boys at pubertal stages 3 and 4, and DHEA was lower at pubertal stage 1 than 3 and 4 for both boys and girls. For the total sample, there was a positive correlation between DHEA and testosterone during early puberty (stages 1-3) but not later puberty (stages 4-5). Awakening secretory activity correlated with daytime secretory activity for testosterone and DHEA, but not for cortisol. These data provide novel chronobiological information on cortisol, testosterone, and DHEA as it relates to sexual maturation and encourage further study on both normal and abnormal endocrine rhythms.

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