Biomarkers that predict response to anabolic therapies could expedite the development of function promoting anabolic drugs. This study aimed to identify serum biomarkers that are responsive to testosterone administration and associated with increases in fat-free mass (FFM).
Serum samples were obtained from the 5α-Reductase Trial, a randomized trial that compared the effects of graded doses of testosterone enanthate for 20-weeks in healthy men randomized to placebo or dutasteride (dual SRD5A inhibitor). Testosterone's effects on FFM or strength measures did not differ between placebo vs dutasteride groups. Accordingly, 54 subjects treated with testosterone plus placebo were included in the Discovery Cohort, and 48 randomized to dutasteride were included in the Validation Cohort. 1162 biomarkers were evaluated using pre-specified criteria.
In the Discovery Cohort, testosterone administration increased PRO-C3 and PRO-C6 levels in a dose- and concentration-dependent manner; increases in these biomarkers from baseline to week-12 were associated with changes in FFM from baseline to week-20 (PRO-C3: r2=0.437, p<0.001; PRO-C6: r2=0.434, p<0.001). Changes in PRO-C3 and PRO-C6 levels were significantly associated with changes in chest press strength (PRO-C3: r2=0.394, p<0.001; PRO-C6: r2=0.530, p<0.001). In the SOMAscan, changes in insulin-like growth factor binding protein-6 (IGFBP6) and Glypican 3 (GPC3) were associated with changes in total and free testosterone levels and FFM. These findings were replicated in the Validation Cohort.
PRO-C3, PRO-C6, IGFBP6 and GPC3 fulfilled the pre-specified criteria for biomarkers of testosterone-induced muscle anabolism: changes in these biomarkers were associated with changes in total and free testosterone concentrations and with testosterone-induced gains in FFM.