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Salivary Bioscience News

Variations in DHEA-S associated with health and maturation during adrenal development

Adrenal maturation, nutritional status, and mucosal immunity in Bolivian youth.

Author: Hodges-Simeon CR, et al. (2017), American Journal of Human Biology

OBJECTIVES: Humans-and several other apes-exhibit a unique pattern of post-natal adrenal maturation; however, the causes and consequences of variation in adrenal development are not well understood. In this study, we examine developmental and age-related maturation of the adrenal gland (measured via dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate [DHEA-S]) for potential life-history associations with growth and mucosal immunity in a rural population of immune-challenged Bolivian juveniles and adolescents.
METHODS: Salivary DHEA-S, anthropometrics, and salivary mucosal immunity (secretory IgA [sIgA]) were measured in 171 males and females, aged 8-23.
RESULTS: Males with greater energy (i.e. fat) stores showed higher DHEA-S levels. Controlling for age and energetic condition (to control for phenotypic correlation), higher DHEA-S was associated with higher mucosal immunity (sIgA) among both males and females. Higher DHEA-S levels were positively associated with growth (i.e. height and strength) in males.
CONCLUSIONS: In accordance with predictions derived from life-history theory, males with higher energy stores secrete more adrenal androgens. This suggests that adrenal maturation is costly and subject to constraints; that is, only males with sufficient reserves will invest in accelerated adrenal maturation. Further, DHEA-S appears to have a measurable influence on immunocompetence in adolescent males and females; therefore, deficits in DHEA-S may have important consequences for health and maturation during this period. Adrenal maturation is an important, but understudied component of human growth and development.

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Keywords: Salivary DHEA, sIgA, adrenal development, mucosal immunity, growth

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