American journal of human biology : the official journal of the Human Biology Council

Dehydroepiandrosterone and multiple measures of functional immunity in young adults.

PMID 25828095


Human immune function is strongly influenced by variation in hormone concentrations. The adrenal androgens dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S) are thought to be beneficial to immune function and disease resistance, but physiologically interact with testosterone and cortisol. We predict that DHEA and DHEA-S will interact with these other hormones in determining immunological outcomes. Understanding the interactive effects of these hormones will aid in understanding variability in immunocompetence and clarify discrepancies in human studies of androgen-immune interactions. Thirty-eight participants collected morning saliva over three days, from which concentrations of DHEA, DHEA-S, testosterone, and cortisol were measured, as well as salivary bacteria killing ability to measure innate immune function. From blood collection, serum was collected to measure innate immune function via a hemolytic complement assay, and whole blood collected and processed to measure proliferative responses of lymphocytes in the presence of mitogens. DHEA was negatively correlated with T cell proliferation, and positively correlated with salivary bacteria killing in male participants. Additionally, using regression models, DHEA-S was negatively associated with hemolytic complement activity, but interaction variables did not yield statistically significant relationships for any other outcome measure. While interactions with other hormones did not significantly relate with immune function measures in this sample, DHEA and DHEA-S did differentially impact multiple branches of the immune system. Generally characterized as immunosupportive in action, DHEA is shown to inhibit certain facets of innate and cell-mediated immunity, suggesting a more complex role in regulating immunocompetence.