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Endocrinology. 2017 Mar 1;158(3):531-544. doi: 10.1210/en.2016-1553.

Low-Dose Dihydrotestosterone Drives Metabolic Dysfunction via Cytosolic and Nuclear Hepatic Androgen Receptor Mechanisms.

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Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.


Androgen excess in women is associated with metabolic dysfunction (e.g., obesity, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes) and reproductive dysfunction (e.g., polycystic ovaries, amenorrhea, dysregulated gonadotropin release, and infertility). We sought to identify the effects of androgen excess on glucose metabolic dysfunction and the specific mechanisms of action by which androgens are inducing pathology. We developed a mouse model that displayed pathophysiological serum androgen levels with normal body mass/composition to ensure that the phenotypes were directly from androgens and not an indirect consequence of obesity. We performed reproductive tests, metabolic tests, and hormonal assays. Livers were isolated and examined via molecular, biochemical, and histological analysis. Additionally, a low-dose dihydrotestosterone (DHT) cell model using H2.35 mouse hepatocytes was developed to study androgen effects on hepatic insulin signaling. DHT mice demonstrated impaired estrous cyclicity; few corpora lutea in the ovaries; glucose, insulin, and pyruvate intolerance; and lowered hepatic insulin action. Mechanistically, DHT increased hepatic androgen-receptor binding to phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K)-p85, resulting in dissociation of PI3K-p85 from PI3K-p110, leading to reduced PI3K activity and decreased p-AKT and, thus, lowered insulin action. DHT increased gluconeogenesis via direct transcriptional regulation of gluconeogenic enzymes and coactivators. The hepatocyte model recapitulated the in vivo findings. The DHT-induced hepatocyte insulin resistance was reversed by the androgen-receptor antagonist, flutamide. These findings present a phenotype (i.e., impaired glucose tolerance and disrupted glucose metabolism) in a lean hyperandrogenemia model (low-dose DHT) and data to support 2 molecular mechanisms that help drive androgen-induced impaired glucose metabolism.

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