The Role of Sex Steroids in Controlling Pubertal Growth

R. J. Perry; C. Farquharson; S. F. Ahmed


Clin Endocrinol. 2008;68(1):4-15. 

In This Article

Summary and Introduction

Longitudinal growth, which is primarily due to chondrocytic activity at the level of the epiphyseal growth plate, is influenced by many hormones and growth factors in an endocrine and paracrine manner. Their influence is even more complex during the accelerated growth period of puberty that accounts for about 20% of final adult height. Although abnormalities of growth during puberty are very common, the underlying mechanisms that govern the beginning and cessation of pubertal growth at the level of the growth plate are poorly understood. Sex steroids play a crucial role in pubertal growth both at the systemic level via the GH/IGF-1 axis and at the local level of the epiphyseal growth plate. In both sexes it is now accepted that oestrogen is the critical hormone in controlling growth plate acceleration and fusion. This paper reviews the mechanisms that influence pubertal growth and the problems that are associated with disorders of gonadal function.

Longitudinal growth is a complex process regulated by several hormonal and genetic factors, environment and nutrition. Among these, sex steroids are of crucial importance and the most obvious demonstration of their effect on human growth is the initiation, maintenance and decline of the pubertal growth spurt. The effect of sex steroids on growth can be studied in detail at two levels: the systemic level and the local level of the epiphyseal growth plate. In this review, we summarize current knowledge about the mechanisms by which sex steroids influence growth before dealing specifically with the growth problems associated with gonadal disorders.


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