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Testosterone measured from amniotic fluid and maternal plasma shows no significant association with directional asymmetry in newborn digit ratio (2D:4D)

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gareth RichardsORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Cambridge University Press, 2019.

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Foetal sex hormones can have powerful and far-reaching effects on later phenotype. However, obtaining accurate measurements is difficult for ethical reasons, and researchers often employ proxy variables to examine their effects. The relative length of the second and fourth fingers (digit ratio or 2D:4D) is frequently used for this purpose, as it is hypothesised to index variance in prenatal androgen and oestrogen exposure. Most studies employing this method examine digit ratio for the right hand (R2D:4D) and/or left hand (L2D:4D), though the mean value (M2D:4D) (i.e. the average of R2D:4D and L2D:4D) and directional asymmetry (D[R-L]) (i.e. R2D:4D minus L2D:4D) are also commonly used. As no published studies have examined M2D:4D or D[R-L] in relation to testosterone measured from amniotic fluid, we conducted a secondary analysis of data published by Ventura et al. (2013). The sample comprises 106 mothers from Portugal who underwent amniocentesis during the second trimester, and their neonates. Newborn M2D:4D was negatively correlated with amniotic testosterone in females (p < 0.05) but not in males; no significant association was observed between amniotic testosterone and D[R-L] in either sex. In addition, we examined testosterone measured from maternal circulation during the second trimester, and found that it was not a significant predictor of M2D:4D or D[R-L] in male or female infants. Further research should aim to measure the ratio of testosterone to oestradiol present in amniotic fluid and maternal plasma, to examine whether either is a predictor of digit ratio variables at different stages of postnatal development.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Richards G, Gomes M, Ventura T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

Year: 2019

Volume: 10

Issue: 3

Pages: 362-367

Print publication date: 01/06/2019

Online publication date: 31/10/2018

Acceptance date: 05/09/2018

Date deposited: 05/09/2018

ISSN (print): 2040-1744

ISSN (electronic): 2040-1752

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S2040174418000752


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