Testosterone-induced increase in muscle size in healthy young men is associated with muscle fiber hypertrophy

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Jul;283(1):E154-64. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00502.2001.


Administration of replacement doses of testosterone to healthy hypogonadal men and supraphysiological doses to eugonadal men increases muscle size. To determine whether testosterone-induced increase in muscle size is due to muscle fiber hypertrophy, 61 healthy men, 18-35 yr of age, received monthly injections of a long-acting gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist to suppress endogenous testosterone secretion and weekly injections of 25, 50, 125, 300, or 600 mg testosterone enanthate (TE) for 20 wk. Thigh muscle volume was measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and muscle biopsies were obtained from vastus lateralis muscle in 39 men before and after 20 wk of combined treatment with GnRH agonist and testosterone. Administration of GnRH agonist plus TE resulted in mean nadir testosterone concentrations of 234, 289, 695, 1,344, and 2,435 ng/dl at the 25-, 50-, 125-, 300-, and 600-mg doses, respectively. Graded doses of testosterone administration were associated with testosterone dose and concentration-dependent increase in muscle volume measured by MRI (changes in vastus lateralis volume, -4, +7, +15, +32, and +48 ml at 25-, 50-, 125-, 300-, and 600-mg doses, respectively). Changes in cross-sectional areas of both type I and II fibers were dependent on testosterone dose and significantly correlated with total (r = 0.35, and 0.44, P < 0.0001 for type I and II fibers, respectively) and free (r = 0.34 and 0.35, P < 0.005) testosterone concentrations during treatment. The men receiving 300 and 600 mg of TE weekly experienced significant increases from baseline in areas of type I (baseline vs. 20 wk, 3,176 +/- 186 vs. 4,201 +/- 252 microm(2), P < 0.05 at 300-mg dose, and 3,347 +/- 253 vs. 4,984 +/- 374 microm(2), P = 0.006 at 600-mg dose) muscle fibers; the men in the 600-mg group also had significant increments in cross-sectional area of type II (4,060 +/- 401 vs. 5,526 +/- 544 microm(2), P = 0.03) fibers. The relative proportions of type I and type II fibers did not change significantly after treatment in any group. The myonuclear number per fiber increased significantly in men receiving the 300- and 600-mg doses of TE and was significantly correlated with testosterone concentration and muscle fiber cross-sectional area. In conclusion, the increases in muscle volume in healthy eugonadal men treated with graded doses of testosterone are associated with concentration-dependent increases in cross-sectional areas of both type I and type II muscle fibers and myonuclear number. We conclude that the testosterone induced increase in muscle volume is due to muscle fiber hypertrophy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anatomy, Cross-Sectional
  • Body Composition
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / agonists
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy / chemically induced
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / drug effects
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / growth & development*
  • Reference Values
  • Testosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Testosterone
  • testosterone enanthate