Aging is associated with gradual decline of skeletal muscle strength and mass often leading to diminished muscle quality. This phenomenon is known as sarcopenia and affects about 30% of the over 60-year-old population. Androgens act as anabolic agents regulating muscle mass and improving muscle performance. The role of female sex steroids as well as the ability of skeletal muscle tissue to locally produce sex steroids has been less extensively studied. We show that despite the extensive systemic deficit of sex steroid hormones in postmenopausal compared to premenopausal women, the hormone content of skeletal muscle does not follow the same trend. In contrast to the systemic levels, muscle tissue of post- and premenopausal women had similar concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone and androstenedione, while the concentrations of estradiol and testosterone were significantly higher in muscle of the postmenopausal women. The presence of steroidogenetic enzymes in muscle tissue indicates that the elevated postmenopausal steroid levels in skeletal muscle are because of local steroidogenesis. The circulating sex steroids were associated with better muscle quality while the muscle concentrations reflected the amount of infiltrated fat within muscle tissue. We conclude that systemically delivered and peripherally produced sex steroids have distinct roles in the regulation of neuromuscular characteristics during aging.
© 2011 The Authors. Aging Cell © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.