It is unclear whether a short-term change in circulating androgens is associated with changes in the transcriptome of the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC).
Aims and methods
To explore the effect of hCG stimulation on the PBMC transcriptome, 12 boys with a median age (range) of 0.7 years (0.3, 11.2) who received intramuscular hCG 1500u on 3 consecutive days as part of their investigations underwent transcriptomic array analysis on RNA extracted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells before and after hCG stimulation.
Median pre- and post-hCG testosterone for the overall group was 0.7 nmol/L (<0.5, 6) and 7.9 nmol/L (<0.5, 31.5), respectively. Of the 12 boys, 3 (25%) did not respond to hCG stimulation with a pre and post median serum testosterone of <0.5 nmol/L and <0.5 nmol/L, respectively. When corrected for gene expression changes in the non-responders to exclude hCG effects, all 9 of the hCG responders consistently demonstrated a 20% or greater increase in the expression of piR-37153 and piR-39248, non-coding PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs). In addition, of the 9 responders, 8, 6 and 4 demonstrated a 30, 40 and 50% rise, respectively, in a total of 2 further piRNAs. In addition, 3 of the responders showed a 50% or greater rise in the expression of another small RNA, SNORD5. On comparing fold-change in serum testosterone with fold-change in the above transcripts, a positive correlation was detected for SNORD5 (P = 0.01).
The identification of a dynamic and androgen-responsive PBMC transcriptome extends the potential value of the hCG test for the assessment of androgen sufficiency.