Long-Term Stability of Cortisol Production and Metabolism Throughout Adolescence: Longitudinal Twin Study

Britt J van Keulen, Conor V Dolan, Ruth Andrew, Brian R Walker, Hilleke E Hulshoff Pol, Dorret I Boomsma, Joost Rotteveel, Martijn J J Finken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Life-course experiences have been postulated to program hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, suggesting that HPA axis activity is, at least partially, stable over time. Yet, there is paucity of data on the long-term stability of cortisol production and metabolism. We performed a prospective follow-up study in twins recruited from a nationwide register to estimate the stability of cortisol production and metabolism over time, and the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to this stability. In total, 218 healthy mono- and dizygotic twins were included. At the ages of 9, 12 and 17 years, morning urine samples were collected for assessment (by gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry) of cortisol metabolites, enabling the calculation of cortisol metabolite excretion rate and cortisol metabolism activity. Our results showed a low stability for both cortisol metabolite excretion rate (with correlations <.20) and cortisol metabolism activity indices (with correlations of .25 to .46 between 9 and 12 years, -.02 to .15 between 12 and 17 years and .09 to .28 between 9 and 17 years). Because of the low stability over time, genetic and environmental contributions to this stability were difficult to assess, although it seemed to be mostly determined by genetic factors. The low stability in both cortisol production and metabolism between ages 9 and 17 years reflects the dynamic nature of the HPA axis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2020

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