The healthy human male hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis exhibits age-dependent loss of coordinate LH-testosterone secretion. A putative independent defect in Leydig-cell steroidogenesis with aging would confound the attribution of such LH-testosterone asynchrony to a hypothalamo-pituitary locus per se. Accordingly, here we appraise by sampling every 2.5 min overnight the joint synchrony of moment-to-moment LH release with simultaneously monitored pituitary FSH secretion, prolactin release, and nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) oscillations, as a neurophysiological correlate of sleep regulation) in 10 young (ages 21-34) and 8 older (ages 62-72) healthy men. Joint synchrony for paired LH-FSH, LH-prolactin, and LH-NPT observations in young vs. older individuals was quantified by the cross-approximate entropy (cross-ApEn) statistic, with larger cross-ApEn values indicating greater two-variable asynchrony. Concomitantly, we assessed (possible) univariate changes with age for each of LH, FSH, prolactin, and NPT, as quantified by approximate entropy (ApEn). Hormone assays were performed by random-access direct chemiluminescence analyzer. Overnight mean (±SEM) serum LH concentrations (IU/L) were equivalent in older (3.1 ± 0.31 IU/L) and younger (2.9 ± 0.29) men, as were their serum total testosterone concentrations; viz., 425 ± 48 (older) and 523 ± 40 (younger) ng/dL. However, all three sets of paired time-series were significantly more asynchronous in the older cohort. First, cross-ApEn of paired LH-FSH release was significantly higher (or more asynchronous) in older subjects; viz., 1902 ± 0.022 in older men vs. 1.607 ± 0.058 in younger individuals (P = 0.0005). Second, cross-ApEn of paired LH and prolactin release was 1.744 ± 0.085 in older volunteers vs. 1.346 ± 0.084 in younger subjects (P = 0.0046). Third, and most notably, cross-ApEn for the joint LH-NPT observation time-series was significantly greater in older subjects at 1.771 ± 0.056 vs. 1.223 ± 0.086 (young) (P = 0.0001), thereby denoting loss of coordination between (neural) signals directing intermittent LH secretion and those governing sleep-associated penile tumescence in older men. Among one-variable results, only ApEn of LH release was significantly higher in older individuals at 1.323 ± 0.058 vs. 0.897 ± 0.089 in younger subjects (P = 0.0019), signifying greater disorderliness of the LH secretory process in aged men. Individual ApEn values of FSH and prolactin release and NPT were age-invariant. In ensemble, the present clinical experiments indicate that, within the aging male reproductive axis, bihormonal network disruption is more pronounced than individual signal disruption. We suggest that abrogation of joint synchrony among hypothalamically directed pituitary hormones and a neurogenically organized sexual response (nocturnal penile tumescence) can be unified thematically under an hypothesis of disrupted central nervous system hypothalamo-pituitary network coordination in human aging. Such implicit disarray of multinodal communication is of consequence both scientifically and clinically, especially in proposing aging theories and intervention strategies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical