Increased Serum Androstenedione in Adults With Autism Spectrum Conditions

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011 Sep;36(8):1154-63. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.02.007. Epub 2011 Mar 12.


Molecular and behavioural evidence points to an association between sex-steroid hormones and autism spectrum conditions (ASC) and/or autistic traits. Prenatal androgen levels are associated with autistic traits, and several genes involved in steroidogenesis are associated with autism, Asperger Syndrome and/or autistic traits. Furthermore, higher rates of androgen-related conditions (such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, hirsutism, acne and hormone-related cancers) are reported in women with autism spectrum conditions. A key question therefore is if serum levels of gonadal and adrenal sex-steroids (particularly testosterone, estradiol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and androstenedione) are elevated in individuals with ASC. This was tested in a total sample of n=166 participants. The final eligible sample for hormone analysis comprised n=128 participants, n=58 of whom had a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome or high functioning autism (33 males and 25 females) and n=70 of whom were age- and IQ-matched typical controls (39 males and 31 females). ASC diagnosis (without any interaction with sex) strongly predicted androstenedione levels (p<0.01), and serum androstenedione levels were significantly elevated in the ASC group (Mann-Whitney W=2677, p=0.002), a result confirmed by permutation testing in females (permutation-corrected p=0.02). This result is discussed in terms of androstenedione being the immediate precursor of, and being converted into, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, or estrogens in hormone-sensitive tissues and organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Androstenedione / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / blood*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Up-Regulation


  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Estradiol
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate