Salivary testosterone and a trinucleotide (CAG) length polymorphism in the androgen receptor gene predict amygdala reactivity in men.
In studies employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), reactivity of the amygdala to threat-related sensory cues (viz., facial displays of negative emotion) has been found to correlate positively with interindividual variability in testosterone levels of women and young men and to increase on acute administration of exogenous testosterone. Many of the biological actions of testosterone are mediated by intracellular androgen receptors (ARs), which exert transcriptional control of androgen-dependent genes and are expressed in various regions of the brain, including the amygdala. Transactivation potential of the AR decreases (yielding relative androgen insensitivity) with expansion a polyglutamine stretch in the N-terminal domain of the AR protein, as encoded by a trinucleotide (CAG) repeat polymorphism in exon 1 of the X-chromosome AR gene. Here we examined whether amygdala reactivity to threat-related facial expressions (fear, anger) differs as a function of AR CAG length variation and endogenous (salivary) testosterone in a mid-life sample of 41 healthy men (mean age=45.6 years, range: 34-54 years; CAG repeats, range: 19-29). Testosterone correlated inversely with participant age (r=-0.39, p=0.012) and positively with number of CAG repeats (r=0.45, p=0.003). In partial correlations adjusted for testosterone level, reactivity in the ventral amygdala was lowest among men with largest number of CAG repeats. This inverse association was seen in both the right (r(p)=-0.34, p<0.05) and left (r(p)=-0.32, p<0.05) hemisphere. Activation of dorsal amygdala, correlated positively with individual differences in salivary testosterone, also in right (r=0.40, p<0.02) and left (r=0.32, p<0.05) hemisphere, but was not affected by number of CAG repeats. Hence, androgenic influences on threat-related reactivity in the ventral amygdala may be moderated partially by CAG length variation in the AR gene. Because individual differences in salivary testosterone also predicted dorsal amygdala reactivity and did so independently of CAG repeats, it is suggested that androgenic influences within this anatomically distinct region may be mediated, in part, by non-genomic or AR-independent mechanisms.
Manuck, SB; Marsland, AL; Flory, JD; Gorka, A; Ferrell, RE; Hariri, AR
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