Does the GH/IGF-1 axis contribute to skeletal sexual dimorphism? Evidence from mouse studies

Zhongbo Liu, Subburaman Mohan, Shoshana Yakar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The contribution of the gonadotropic axis to skeletal sexual dimorphism (SSD) was clarified in recent years. Studies with animal models of estrogen receptor (ER) or androgen receptor (AR) null mice, as well as mice with bone cell-specific ablation of ER or AR, revealed that both hormones play major roles in skeletal acquisition, and that estrogen regulates skeletal accrual in both sexes. The growth hormone (GH) and its downstream effector, the insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are also major determinants of peak bone mass during puberty and young adulthood, and play important roles in maintaining bone integrity during aging. A few studies in both humans and animal models suggest that in addition to the differences in sex steroid actions on bone, sex-specific effects of GH and IGF-1 play essential roles in SSD. However, the contributions of the somatotropic (GH/IGF-1) axis to SSD are controversial and data is difficult to interpret. GH/IGF-1 are pleotropic hormones that act in an endocrine and autocrine/paracrine fashion on multiple tissues, affecting body composition as well as metabolism. Thus, understanding the contribution of the somatotropic axis to SSD requires the use of mouse models that will differentiate between these two modes of action. Elucidation of the relative contribution of GH/IGF-1 axis to SSD is significant because GH is approved for the treatment of normal children with short stature and children with congenital growth disorders. Thus, if the GH/IGF-1 axis determines SSD, treatment with GH may be tailored according to sex. In the following review, we give an overview of the roles of sex steroids in determining SSD and how they may interact with the GH/IGF-1 axis in bone. We summarize several mouse models with impaired somatotropic axis and speculate on the possible contribution of that axis to SSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-17
Number of pages11
JournalGrowth Hormone and IGF Research
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Bone
  • Growth hormone receptor (GHR)
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)
  • Micro-computed tomography
  • Osteocyte
  • Parathyroid hormone (PTH)
  • Skeletal sexual dimorphism (SSD)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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