Pathophysiology of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG): relation to insulin

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1991;40(4-6):841-9. doi: 10.1016/0960-0760(91)90310-2.


In humans, the plasma level of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) is regulated by several hormones. We have now accumulated evidence that SHBG is also intimately related to nutritional state. However, we do not yet know what specific signal, if any, may be the regulator of SHBG. There is a strong and negative correlation between fasting insulin level and SHBG in obese as in hyperandrogenic women. Under such circumstances, a high fasting insulin level, normal glycemia and a low SHBG level suggest insulin resistance in terms of glucose disposal but not in terms of SHBG inhibition. This is a rather complex situation. It is too early to judge the importance of IGF-I in the regulation of SHBG. But it may turn out that IGF-I is the main regulator of SHBG and that, by interaction with the IGF-I receptors, insulin carries on its inhibitory activity on SHBG.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology
  • Body Weight
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Hirsutism / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / physiology
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Physical Exertion
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Reproduction
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / physiology*
  • Steroids / physiology*


  • Insulin
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Steroids
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I