Serum levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) are not associated with lower levels of non-SHBG-bound testosterone in male newborns and healthy adult men

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2005 Apr;62(4):498-503. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2005.02252.x.


Objective: It is generally accepted that SHBG decreases the bioavailability and activity of testosterone (T). In in vitro experiments increased levels of SHBG will be associated with decreased levels of non-SHBG bound testosterone (non-SHBG-T). However, in vivo SHBG can alter both production and clearance rates and thus plasma levels of T.

Design and patients: In order to study the effect of SHBG on the levels of non-SHBG-T in vivo in the presence of an active hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis we conducted a cross sectional study in 400 healthy adult men with an age range of 40-80 years and in 106 newborn boys.

Measurements: In both groups, regression coefficients (beta) and partial correlation coefficients (r) were calculated for the relationship between SHBG and T or non-SHBG-T. Adult men were divided into age groups per decade (40-50 years, 51-60 years, 61-70 years and 71-80 years) to study possible differences in the impact of SHBG on the level of non-SHBG-T throughout ageing.

Results: Higher levels of SHBG were associated with higher levels of total testosterone in neonates (beta = 0.02 +/- 0.004, r = 0.44, P < 0.001) but not with non-SHBG-T (beta = -0.001 +/- 0.001, r = 0.05, P = 0.52). In adult men there was a significant age related increase in levels of SHBG and an age-related decrease of both total and non-SHBG-T. Higher SHBG was strongly associated with higher total testosterone in all age groups (beta = 0.26, 0.26, 0.26 and 0.23 for 40-50 years, 51-60 years, 61-70 years and 71-80 years, respectively, P < 0.001 for all age groups). Higher SHBG was not or only slightly associated with higher non-SHBG-T beta = 0.02 (P = 0.32), beta = 0.04 (P = 0.03), beta = 0.04 (P = 0.02) and beta = 0.02 (P = 0.16) for 40-50 years, 51-60 years, 61-70 years and 71-80 years, respectively.

Conclusions: In contrast to general belief, SHBG levels barely influence levels of non-SHBG-bound testosterone both in male newborns and healthy adult men: the influence, if any, is positive. Consequently the age related increase of SHBG does not account for the age related decline in non-SHBG-T in healthy adult men.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood*
  • Biological Availability
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone