Klinefelter syndrome is characterized by a vast range of phenotypes related to androgen effects. Testosterone (T) acts via the X-linked androgen receptor gene carrying the CAG repeat (CAGn) polymorphism, the length of which is inversely associated with androgen action and might account for the marked variation in phenotypes. In 77 newly diagnosed and untreated Klinefelter patients with a 47,XXY karyotype we assessed phenotype and social traits in relation to X-weighted biallelic CAGn length using X-chromosome inactivation analysis after digestion of leukocyte DNA with methylation-sensitive HpaII. Forty-eight men were hypogonadal and received T substitution therapy; in these, pharmacogenetic effects were investigated. The shorter CAGn allele was preferentially inactive. CAGn length was positively associated with body height. Bone density and the relation of arm span to body height were inversely related to CAGn length. The presence of long CAGn was predictive for gynecomastia and smaller testes, whereas short CAGn were associated with a stable partnership and professions requiring higher standards of education also when corrected for family background. There was a trend for men with longer CAGn to be diagnosed earlier in life. Under T substitution, men with shorter CAGn exhibited a more profound suppression of LH levels, augmented prostate growth, and higher hemoglobin concentrations. A significant genotype-phenotype association exists in Klinefelter patients: androgen effects on appearance and social characteristics are modulated by the androgen receptor CAGn polymorphism. The effects of T substitution are pharmacogenetically modified. This finding is magnified by preferential inactivation of the more functional short CAGn allele.
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