The effects of oestrogens on linear bone growth
Abstract:Regulation of linear bone growth in children and adolescents comprises a complex interaction of hormones and growth factors. Growth hormone (GH) is considered to be the key hormone regulator of linear growth in childhood. The pubertal increase in growth velocity associated with GH has traditionally been attributed to testicular androgen secretion in boys, and to oestrogens or adrenal androgen secretion in girls. Research data indicating that oestrogen may be the principal hormone stimulating the pubertal growth spurt in boys as well as girls is reviewed. Such an action is mediated by oestrogen receptors (ER‐α and ER‐β) in the human growth plate, and polymorphisms in the ER gene may influence adult height in healthy subjects. Prepubertal oestradiol concentrations are significantly higher in girls than in boys, explaining sex‐related differences in pubertal onset. Men with a disruptive mutation in the ER gene (oestrogen resistance) or in the CYP19 gene (aromatase deficiency) who have no pubertal growth spurt and continue to grow into adulthood due to lack of epiphyseal fusion supports this notion. Furthermore, phenotypic females with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome have a normal female growth spurt despite lack of androgen action. Oestrogens may also influence linear bone growth indirectly via modulation of the GH‐insuIin‐like growth factor‐I (IGF‐I) axis. Thus, ER blockade diminishes endogenous GH secretion, androgen receptor (AR) blockade increases GH secretion in peripubertal boys, and non‐aromatizable androgens [oxandrolone or dihydrotestosterone (DHT)] have no effect on GH secretion. Treatment with aromatase inhibitors reduces circulating IGF‐I concentrations in healthy males, and reduces growth in boys with testotoxicosis. Taken together, these findings suggest that oestrogens may, in addition to their direct effects, stimulate GH secretion and thereby increase circulating IGF‐I, which in turn may stimulate growth. Thus, oestrogens have important biphasic actions on longitudinal growth in boys as well as in girls. Very low levels of oestrogens may stimulate bone growth without affecting sexual maturation directly at the growth plate as well as through stimulation of the GH‐IGF axis, which in turn may stimulate growth. Conversely, higher levels of oestrogens stimulate secondary sexual characteristics and epiphyseal fusion.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Growth and Reproduction GR, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Publication date: 2001-07-01