Serum Testosterone Levels in 3-Month-Old Boys Predict Their Semen Quality as Young Adults

Louise Scheutz Henriksen*, Jørgen Holm Petersen, Niels E Skakkebæk, Niels Jørgensen, Helena E Virtanen, Lærke Priskorn, Anders Juul, Jorma Toppari, Katharina M Main

*Corresponding author for this work


CONTEXT: It remains unknown how the postnatal activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in infancy, also known as "minipuberty", relates to adult testis function.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate how markers of reproductive function in 3-month-old boys correlate with adult reproductive health parameters.

METHODS: This population-based birth cohort study (the Copenhagen Mother-Child cohort), conducted at Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, included 259 boys examined once around 3 months of age and again at 18 to 20 years. Reproductive hormones, penile length, testis volume, and semen quality were analyzed. Minipubertal markers of testis function (by tertiles, T1-T3) were explored as predictors of adult semen quality using linear regression models. Associations between reproductive outcomes in infancy and young adulthood were estimated by intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs), describing how well measurements in infancy correlate with those in adulthood.

RESULTS: Serum testosterone concentration in infancy was positively associated with adult total sperm count. Median (IQR) total sperm count was 84 (54-138) million spermatozoa for boys in T1, 141 (81-286) million spermatozoa in T2, and 193 (56-287) million spermatozoa in T3. We found the highest ICC for FSH (0.41; 95% CI, 0.26-0.57), while ICCs for inhibin B, SHBG, penile length, and testis volume ranged between 0.24 and 0.27. ICCs for LH and for total and free testosterone were lower and statistically nonsignificant.

CONCLUSION: Serum testosterone in infancy was a predictor of adult total sperm count. Other reproductive hormones and genital measures showed good correlation between infancy and adulthood, suggesting that an individual's reproductive setpoint starts shortly after birth in boys and persists until adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1965-1975
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022


  • Cohort Studies
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Penis
  • Semen
  • Semen Analysis
  • Sperm Count
  • Spermatozoa/physiology
  • Testosterone/blood
  • Young Adult


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