Twin models of environmental and genetic influences on pubertal development, salivary testosterone, and estradiol in adolescence

Andrew D. Grotzinger*, Frank D. Mann, Megan W. Patterson, Kathrin Herzhoff, Jennifer L. Tackett, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, K. Paige Harden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Research on sources of variation in adolescent's gonadal hormone levels is limited. We sought to decompose individual differences in adolescent testosterone, estradiol, and pubertal status, into genetic and environmental components. Design: A sample of male and female adolescent twins from the greater Austin and Houston areas provided salivary samples, with a subset of participants providing longitudinal data at 2 waves. Participants: The sample included 902 adolescent twins, 49% female, aged 13-20 years (M = 15.91) from the Texas Twin Project. Thirty-seven per cent of twin pairs were monozygotic; 30% were same-sex dizygotic (DZ) pairs; and 33% were opposite-sex DZ pairs. Measurements: Saliva samples were assayed for testosterone and estradiol using chemiluminescence immunoassays. Pubertal status was assessed using self-report. Biometric decompositions were performed using multivariate quantitative genetic models. Results: Genetic factors contributed substantially to variation in testosterone in males and females in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle (h2 = 60% and 51%, respectively). Estradiol was also genetically influenced in both sexes, but was predominately influenced by nonshared environmental factors. The correlation between testosterone and estradiol was mediated by a combination of genetic and environmental influences for males and females. Genetic and environmental influences on hormonal concentrations were only weakly correlated with self-reported pubertal status, particularly for females. Conclusions: Between-person variability in adolescent gonadal hormones and their interrelationship reflects both genetic and environmental processes, with both testosterone and estradiol containing sizeable heritable components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-250
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • adolescence
  • estradiol
  • heritability
  • testosterone
  • twin models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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