Gene expression profiling in human whole blood samples after controlled testosterone application and exercise

Drug Test Anal. 2011 Oct;3(10):652-60. doi: 10.1002/dta.360.


Doping with anabolic agents is regulated within a number of sports. Testosterone and its functional analogs are popular compounds for increasing muscle mass, physical performance, recovery, and reducing body fat. While routine tests for anabolic drugs exist (e.g. hair, urine, and blood analysis), the aim of the present study is to determine specific gene expression profiles (induced by testosterone and exercise) which may be used as effective biomarkers to determine the use of anabolic drugs. In this study, whole blood samples of 19 male volunteers were analyzed by semi-quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for gene expression profiles in the context of exercise and transdermal testosterone application (1.5 mg/kg body weight). The hormone application was monitored by urine and saliva analysis for testosterone. Both urinary and saliva levels indicate that transdermal testosterone application leads to an increase of testosterone, especially after exercise. RT-PCR results showed a clear variation in the expression of target genes as well as established housekeeping genes. Only one of the nine common housekeeping genes, cyclophilin b (PPIB), appears to be independent of both exercise and testosterone. Out of 14 candidate genes, five are unregulated; all others were more or less influenced by the mentioned variables. Only interleukin-6 appeared to be exclusively dependent on long-term testosterone application. This study indicates that many genes are not influenced by testosterone alone while exercise modulates gene expression in whole blood samples. As such, exercise must be considered when validating gene expression techniques for doping analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Blood Cells / drug effects*
  • Blood Cells / metabolism
  • Exercise*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Testosterone / administration & dosage
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*
  • Testosterone / urine


  • Testosterone