Testosterone perturbs epidermal permeability barrier homeostasis

J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Mar;116(3):443-51. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.2001.01281.x.


Although there are no known gender-related differences in permeability barrier function in adults, estrogens accelerate whereas testosterone retards barrier development in fetal skin, and male fetuses demonstrate slower barrier development than female littermates. Moreover, prenatal administration of the androgen receptor antagonist, flutamide, equalizes developmental rates in male and female fetuses. Therefore, we evaluated the effects of changes in testosterone on barrier homeostasis in adult murine and human skin. Hypogonadal mice (whether by castration or by treatment with systemic flutamide) displayed significantly faster barrier recovery at 3, 6, and 12 h than did controls, and testosterone replacement slowed barrier recovery in castrated mice. Moreover, testosterone directly effects the skin, as topical flutamide also accelerated barrier recovery in normal male mice. These findings appear to be of physiologic significance, since prepubertal male mice (age 5 wk) displayed accelerated barrier recovery in comparison with adult postpubertal (11 wk) males. These studies also appear to be relevant for humans, as a hypopituitary human subject demonstrated repeated changes in barrier recovery in parallel with peaks and nadirs in serum testosterone levels during intermittent testosterone replacement. Mechanistic studies showed that differences in epidermal lipid synthesis do not account for the testosterone-induced functional alterations. Instead, epidermal lamellar body (LB) formation and secretion both decrease, resulting in decreased extracellular lamellar bilayers in testosterone-replete animals. These studies demonstrate that fluctuations in testosterone modulate barrier function, and that testosterone repletion can have negative consequences for permeability barrier homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epidermis / anatomy & histology
  • Epidermis / drug effects
  • Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Epidermis / ultrastructure
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Homeostasis / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Orchiectomy
  • Permeability / drug effects*
  • Testosterone / adverse effects
  • Testosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Testosterone
  • testosterone 17 beta-cypionate