«Testosterone is the primary malesex hormone and an anabolic steroid. In male humans, testosterone plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues such as testes and prostate, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle and bone mass, and the growth of body hair. In addition, testosterone is involved in health and well-being, and the prevention of osteoporosis. Insufficient levels of testosterone in men may lead to abnormalities including frailty and bone loss.
Testosterone is a steroid from the androstane class containing a keto and hydroxyl groups at the three and seventeen positions respectively. It is biosynthesized in several steps from cholesterol and is converted in the liver to inactive metabolites. It exerts its action through binding to and activation of the androgen receptor. In humans and most other vertebrates, testosterone is secreted primarily by the testicle of males and, to a lesser extent, the ovaries of females. On average, in adult males, levels of testosterone are about 7 to 8 times as great as in adult females. As the metabolism of testosterone in males is greater, the daily production is about 20 times greater in men. Females are also more sensitive to the hormone.
In addition to its role as a natural hormone, testosterone is used as a medication, for instance in the treatment of low testosterone levels in men and breast cancer in women. Since testosterone levels decrease as men age, testosterone is sometimes used in older men to counteract this deficiency. It is also used illicitly to enhance physique and performance, for instance in athletes.
In general, androgens such as testosterone promote protein synthesis and thus growth of tissues with androgen receptor. Testosterone can be described as having virilising and anabolic effects (though these categorical descriptions are somewhat arbitrary, as there is a great deal of mutual overlap between them).
Testosterone effects can also be classified by the age of usual occurrence. For postnatal effects in both males and females, these are mostly dependent on the levels and duration of circulating free testosterone.
Effects before birth are divided into two categories, classified in relation to the stages of development.
The first period occurs between 4 and 6 weeks of the gestation. Examples include genital virilisation such as midline fusion, phallicurethra, scrotal thinning and rugation, and phallic enlargement; although the role of testosterone is far smaller than that of dihydrotestosterone. There is also development of the prostate gland and seminal vesicles.
During the second trimester, androgen level is associated with sex formation. This period affects the femininization or masculinization of the fetus and can be a better predictor of feminine or masculine behaviours such as sex typed behaviour than an adult's own levels. A mother's testosterone level during pregnancy is correlated with her daughter's sex-typical behavior as an adult, and the correlation is even stronger than with the daughter's own adult testosterone level.
Early infancy androgen effects are the least understood. In the first weeks of life for male infants, testosterone levels rise. The levels remain in a pubertal range for a few months, but usually reach the barely detectable levels of childhood by 4–7 months of age. The function of this rise in humans is unknown. It has been theorized that brain masculinization is occurring since no significant changes have been identified in other parts of the body. The male brain is masculinized by the aromatization of testosterone into estrogen, which crosses the blood–brain barrier and enters the male brain, whereas female fetuses have α-fetoprotein, which binds the estrogen so that female brain are not affected.
Before puberty effects of rising androgen levels occur in both boys and girls. These include adult-type body odor, increased oiliness of skin and hair, acne, pubarche (appearance of pubic hair), axillary hair (armpit hair), growth spurt, accelerated bone maturation, and facial hair.
Pubertal effects begin to occur when androgen has been higher than normal adult female levels for months or years. In males, these are usual late pubertal effects, and occur in women after prolonged periods of heightened levels of free testosterone in the blood. The effects include:
Growth of spermatogenic tissue in testicle, male fertility, penis or clitoris enlargement, increased libido and frequency of erection or clitoral engorgement. Growth of jaw, brow, chin, nose, and remodeling of facial bone contours, in conjunction with human growth hormone. Completion of bone maturation and termination of growth. This occurs indirectly via estradiolmetabolites and hence more gradually in men than women. Increased muscle strength and mass, shoulders become broader and rib cage expands, deepening of voice, growth of the Adam's apple. Enlargement of sebaceous glands. This might cause acne, subcutaneous fat in face decreases. Pubic hair extends to thighs and up toward umbilicus, development of facial hair (sideburns, beard, moustache), loss of scalp hair (androgenetic alopecia), increase in chest hair, periareolar hair, perianal hair, leg hair, armpit hair.» (wikipedia)
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