Activin A serum levels and aging of the pituitary-gonadal axis: a cross-sectional study in middle-aged and elderly healthy subjects

Exp Gerontol. 2001 Aug;36(8):1403-12. doi: 10.1016/s0531-5565(01)00117-6.


Aim of the study was to investigate activin A serum concentration in healthy adult males and post-menopausal females over a wide age-range and its correlation to gonadotropins, inhibin B and testosterone concentrations. The study included 73 males (aged 30-101 years) and 42 postmenopausal females (aged 50-104 years). Blood samples were collected after an overnight fast to measure serum activin A, inhibin B, LH, FSH, and gonadal steroid levels. A significant increase in serum activin A levels over age in both genders, especially in the oldest age-groups, was observed. Serum inhibin B and testosterone concentrations showed a sharp decrease in male subjects, reflecting the age-related decrease of testicular function and by consequence serum FSH and LH significantly increased. In female subjects LH and FSH levels were very high in subjects in their 50s and showed a continuous decline due to pituitary aging. Simple and multivariable regression analyses demonstrated the lack of correlation between activin A and FSH in both males and females. In conclusion, a steep increase in activin A levels is present during aging in both genders, especially in the last decades of life. The physiologic role and site of production of activin A in old subjects remain to be clarified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activins / blood*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood*
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Inhibin-beta Subunits / blood*
  • Inhibins / blood
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovary / physiology*
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology*
  • Testis / physiology*
  • Testosterone / blood


  • activin A
  • inhibin B
  • Activins
  • Testosterone
  • Inhibins
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Inhibin-beta Subunits