Twin Research and Human Genetics

Articles

Heritability of Testosterone Levels in 12-Year-Old Twins and Its Relation to Pubertal Development

Rosa A. Hoekstraa1 c1, Meike Bartelsa2 and Dorret I. Boomsmaa3

a1 Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Ra.Hoekstra@psy.vu.nl

a2 Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

a3 Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to estimate the heritability of variation in testosterone levels in 12-year-old children, and to explore the overlap in genetic and environmental influences on circulating testosterone levels and androgen-dependent pubertal development. Midday salivary testosterone samples were collected on 2 consecutive days in a sample of 183 unselected twin pairs. Androgen-induced pubertal development was assessed using self-report Tanner scales of pubic hair development (boys and girls) and genital development (boys). A significant contribution of genetic effects to the variance in testosterone levels was found. Heritability was approximately 50% in both boys and girls. The remaining proportion of the variance in testosterone levels could be explained by nonshared environmental influences. The relatively high correlation between testosterone levels of opposite-sex dizygotic twins suggests that sex differences in genes influencing variation in testosterone levels have not yet developed in preand early puberty. Variance in pubertal development was explained by a large genetic component, moderate shared environmental influences, and a small nonshared environmental effect. Testosterone levels correlated moderately (r = .31) with pubertal development; the covariance between testosterone levels and pubertal development was entirely accounted for by genetic influences.

(Received May 26 2006)

(Accepted June 02 2006)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Rosa Hoekstra, Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Metrics