Elevated testosterone in females reveals a robust sex difference in altered androgen levels during chronic alcohol withdrawal

Melissa R. Forquer, Joel G. Hashimoto, Melissa L. Roberts, Kristine M. Wiren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The endocrine disruption associated with alcohol (ethanol) abuse in both males and females is widely recognized. Ethanol intoxication and withdrawal in males results in significant reductions in androgen levels. Less is known about female alcoholics, and because the changes in testosterone concentrations remain controversial, we systematically characterized changes in sex steroids after chronic ethanol exposure and withdrawal in both sexes. Testosterone and 17β-estradiol concentrations were determined during chronic high intoxication, over a withdrawal time course, and following a period of abstinence using a genetic model of withdrawal vulnerability, the Withdrawal Seizure-Resistant (WSR) and -Prone (WSP) selected lines. In males, testosterone concentrations were significantly lower in intoxicated WSP mice after chronic ethanol exposure, and were dramatically and transiently reduced during the withdrawal period in both WSR and WSP lines. In contrast, testosterone levels were increased in intoxicated WSP females and in both WSR and WSP mice during withdrawal. Chronic ethanol exposure disrupted normal estrous cycling in WSP mice, associated with hyperandrogenemia while intoxicated. In abstinence, elevated testosterone was observed in both sexes but only in WSR mice. Estrogen levels were modestly reduced during withdrawal in both WSR and WSP lines, predominantly in males. These findings identify a mechanism based on altered androgen signaling that likely contributes to sex-specific responses during withdrawal. However, only WSR mice showed similar elevations in androgen long after withdrawal in both sexes, suggesting that genotype is an important determinant of steroid responses after abstinence. Increased androgen signaling in females as a consequence of chronic ethanol exposure may play an important and relatively uncharacterized role in sexually dimorphic responses to alcohol abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-171
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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