Many things can cause low testosterone, but one contributing factor that sometimes goes undiagnosed is dysfunctional hormone receptors. Unresponsive or blocked androgen receptors can cause the symptoms of low T even if the body produces a healthy amount of testosterone.
In these cases, even though the T is readily available, it can’t be utilized by the body due to an inability to interact with the receptor. Fortunately, there are hormone therapy options that may be able to reverse receptor problems in some patients.
How Testosterone Receptors Work
The complex physiology of testosterone receptors begins at the DNA level, where the AR gene tells our body to produce a protein that becomes the androgen receptor. This nuclear receptor, known by molecular biologists as NR3C4, is responsible for mediating all the effects of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.
When the hormone binds to the receptor, a complex chain reaction occurs that causes the transcription of specific genes to manifest physiological changes in the body according to the genetic instructions of the DNA.
A neuroreceptor can be thought of as a lock which can only be opened by a specific key (the neurotransmitter), in this case, the hormone T. When the T molecules “unlock” the androgen receptor it triggers the body to interpret and follow the genetic instructions “written” in your DNA. The widespread effects of this gene transcription can take on a number of forms and encourages bodily processes like hair and muscle growth.
The Gerontological Society of America states that T has numerous physiological effects, including involvement in spermatogenesis, testicular function, hair growth, nitrogen retention, bone density, muscle mass and distribution, libido, and secondary sexual characteristics.
Mental health is strongly linked to testosterone levels, with several studies finding a correlation between low levels and clinical depression. Another study involving 16 hypogonadal men found “a significant positive impact of testosterone on mood” on subjects given T therapy.
Testosterone Receptors Affect T Levels As You Age
It’s scientifically proven that T levels drop as we age, but this isn’t always a case of less T production; faulty hormone receptors can also be to blame. Reduced testicular responses to gonadotrophin stimuli as we age, alongside incomplete hypothalamic-pituitary compensation, can cause a fall in total or free testosterone levels. This means that sometimes unresponsive androgen receptors can be the culprit for low levels.
Loss of muscle mass, strength, bone density, and the accumulation of belly fat are typical symptoms of a T deficiency related to a problem with receptor functionality. The androgen receptor is nearly bio-identical to the progesterone (female hormone) receptor.
Under the right circumstances, the body can convert T into estrogen by way of an enzyme called aromatase, a phenomenon sometimes brought on by excess abdominal fat. What makes matters worse is that as levels of estradiol rise, the receptors undergo changes that prioritize estrogen production over T production.
One of the most critical roles played by androgen receptors as we age is bone maintenance. Androgen receptors can affect bone density positively or negatively since it helps to regulate the release of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, or cells that build up and break down our bones. All throughout our lifetime, these cells work in unison to form, break down, and “remodel” our skeletal system to maintain calcium homeostasis.
When the body registers low levels of calcium in the bloodstream, receptors will usually initiate a release of osteoclasts to dissolve small amounts of bone. This raises calcium ion levels in the blood. If this process goes unchecked, it can lead to low bone density and increase susceptibility to bone breaks and osteoporosis.
TRT Can Help Improve Testosterone Receptor Performance
Body Composition Benefits
One of the primary ways that TRT helps to improve receptor performance is by improving body composition. Numerous studies have found a positive correlation between testosterone therapy and fat loss.
Since belly fat can cause abnormally high levels of female hormones to block the testosterone receptor sites, the testosterone produced is rendered essentially ineffective. However, when this fat is lost, there is often a natural rise in T levels and thus reduction in estrogen-conversion. That’s why many people turn to testosterone treatments.
Though little research has been done on this in male subjects, there is evidence that testosterone therapy can increase the gene expression of androgen receptors in individuals with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Gene expression is the body’s way of interpreting data stored in the DNA and turning that information into a form that can be utilized (usually a protein).
Increasing the gene expression of androgen receptors creates more receptors within the body for hormones to act upon.
Androgen receptors are located throughout the body, and the brain is no exception. TRT patients often report positive changes to their mental function including improved memory, mood, and cognition; these improvements are thought to be caused by changes to the androgen receptors in the brain. For the patients, these improvements are a welcome change since reduced cognition, emotional changes, and low libido are all common side effects of low T.
How We Can Help
Renew Vitality is a hormone therapy and wellness center for men over the age of 30 who are experiencing the signs of a T or growth hormone imbalance. Our centers are staffed with highly-qualified physicians and professionals who are knowledgeable of endocrine function and age-related hormone deficiencies.
Renew Vitality believes taking both a medical and holistic approach to hormone deficiency, this is why we don’t simply administer hormone therapy and send patients on their way. Instead, our practitioners help each patient to develop a one-of-a-kind lifestyle and wellness plan to help maximize their success and help patients to become healthier on every level.
Our carefully constructed wellness plans and patient-specific hormone regimens work together within the body to supplement the body’s lack of natural hormones and to help make receptors more responsive to hormonal stimuli.
If you suspect recent changes in your health are due to low T levels, then please schedule your consultation today.
This content was reviewed by Dr. Gary Kawesch. Dr. Kawesch graduated from Yale University, getting his degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. He then got his medical degree at the UCLA School of Medicine. He completed his internship in internal medicine at USC’s Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, and his ophthalmology residency at the UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. For over 18 years, Dr. Kawesch was one of the foremost ophthalmic surgeons in the US and has consulted with and was a team doctor for seven professional sports teams in California. He continues to work with the Oakland Raiders. He trained with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and helps men increase their vitality, lifespan and overall healthspan.