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Atypical regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a putative mechanism underlying the association between exposure to early life stress (ELS) and the subsequent development of mental and physical health difficulties. Recent research indicates that puberty is a period of HPA-axis plasticity during which the effects of exposure to ELS on cortisol regulation may change. In particular, increases in the sex hormones that drive pubertal maturation, including dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and testosterone, may be implicated in pubertal recalibration of cortisol regulation. In the current study, we examined the associations among levels of objectively-rated threat-related ELS and salivary waking cortisol, DHEA, and testosterone in a sample of 178 adolescents (55 % female) who were in early puberty at baseline (Tanner stages 1-3; mean Tanner stage[SD] = 1.93[0.64]; mean age[SD] = 11.42[1.04]) and were followed up approximately two years later (mean Tanner stage[SD] = 3.46[0.86]; mean age[SD] = 13.38[1.06]). Using multi-level modeling, we disaggregated the effects of between-individual levels and within-individual increases in pubertal stage and sex hormones on change in cortisol. Controlling for between-individual differences in average pubertal stage, the association between levels of cortisol and DHEA was more strongly positive among adolescents who evidenced greater within-individual increases in pubertal stage across time. Both higher average levels and greater within-individual increases in DHEA and testosterone were associated with increases in cortisol across time, indicating positive coupling of developmental changes in these hormones; however, coupling was attenuated in adolescents who were exposed to more severe threat-related ELS prior to puberty. These findings advance our understanding of the development of the HPA-axis and its association with childhood environmental risk during puberty.
This article was published in the following journal.
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A major C19 steroid produced by the ADRENAL CORTEX. It is also produced in small quantities in the TESTIS and the OVARY. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) can be converted to TESTOSTERONE; ANDROSTENEDIONE; ESTRADIOL; and ESTRONE. Most of DHEA is sulfated (DEHYDROEPIANDROSTERONE SULFATE) before secretion.
The circulating form of a major C19 steroid produced primarily by the ADRENAL CORTEX. DHEA sulfate serves as a precursor for TESTOSTERONE; ANDROSTENEDIONE; ESTRADIOL; and ESTRONE.
Steroidal compounds related to TESTOSTERONE, the major mammalian male sex hormone. Testosterone congeners include important testosterone precursors in the biosynthetic pathways, metabolites, derivatives, and synthetic steroids with androgenic activities.
A potent androgenic metabolite of TESTOSTERONE. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is generated by a 5-alpha reduction of testosterone. Unlike testosterone, DHT cannot be aromatized to ESTRADIOL therefore DHT is considered a pure androgenic steroid.
A potent androgenic steroid and major product secreted by the LEYDIG CELLS of the TESTIS. Its production is stimulated by LUTEINIZING HORMONE from the PITUITARY GLAND. In turn, testosterone exerts feedback control of the pituitary LH and FSH secretion. Depending on the tissues, testosterone can be further converted to DIHYDROTESTOSTERONE or ESTRADIOL.
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