Relationships of Circulating Sex Hormone–Binding Globulin With Metabolic Traits in Humans

  1. Norbert Stefan1
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetology, Vascular Medicine, Nephrology and Clinical Chemistry, University of Tübingen, member of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), Tübingen, Germany;
  2. 2Section on Experimental Radiology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.
  1. Corresponding author: Norbert Stefan, norbert.stefan{at}


OBJECTIVE Recent data suggested that sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG) levels decrease when fat accumulates in the liver and that circulating SHBG may be causally involved in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes in humans. In the present study, we investigated mechanisms by which high SHBG may prevent development to diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Before and during a 9-month lifestyle intervention, total body and visceral fat were precisely measured by magnetic resonance (MR) tomography and liver fat was measured by 1H-MR spectroscopy in 225 subjects. Insulin sensitivity was estimated from a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test (ISOGTT) and measured by a euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp (ISclamp, n = 172). Insulin secretion was measured during the OGTT and an ivGTT (n = 172).

RESULTS SHBG levels correlated positively with insulin sensitivity (ISOGTT, P = 0.037; ISclamp, P = 0.057), independently of age, sex, and total body fat. In a multivariate model, these relationships were also significant after additional adjustment for levels of the adipokine adiponectin and the hepatokine fetuin-A (ISOGTT, P = 0.0096; ISclamp, P = 0.029). Adjustment of circulating SHBG for liver fat abolished the relationships of SHBG with insulin sensitivity. In contrast, circulating SHBG correlated negatively with fasting glycemia, before (r = −0.17, P = 0.009) and after (r = −0.14, P = 0.04) adjustment for liver fat. No correlation of circulating SHBG with adjusted insulin secretion was observed (OGTT, P = 0.16; ivGTT, P = 0.35). The SNP rs1799941 in SHBG was associated with circulating SHBG (P ≤ 0.025) but not with metabolic characteristics (all P > 0.18).

CONCLUSIONS Possible mechanisms by which high circulating SHBG prevents the development of type 2 diabetes involve regulation of fasting glycemia but not alteration of insulin secretory function.


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  • Received February 4, 2010.
  • Accepted September 3, 2010.

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  1. Diabetes vol. 59 no. 12 3167-3173
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