Pubertal Status and Age are Differentially Associated with Inflammatory Biomarkers in Female and Male Adolescents

Abstract

A better understanding of the maturational correlates of inflammatory activity during adolescence is needed to more appropriately study both normal and abnormal development. Inflammation is the immune system’s first response to infection, injury, or psychological stress, and it has been shown to be elevated in individuals with both physical and psychological conditions. This study examined unique associations between (1) pubertal status and inflammatory biomarkers, and (2) age and inflammatory biomarkers, and whether these relationships differed by sex in a diverse sample of 155 adolescents (54.2% female, 45.8% male; Mage = 16.22) from a northeastern city in the US. A more advanced pubertal status was uniquely associated with lower levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-8 (IL-8). Chronological age was uniquely associated with lower IL-8 levels. The association between pubertal status and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels differed by sex: more mature females had higher CRP, whereas pubertal status and CRP were not significantly associated in males. These findings highlight an important relation between pubertal development and inflammatory activity during adolescence.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Immunomodulatory medication use was not significantly associated with any dependent variables, and therefore, was not included in the models. However, when it was included, the pattern of results remained the same. Similarly, only IL-8 was associated with the diagnosis of a medical condition that could affect inflammation, so only models predicting IL-8 included this variable as a covariate. However, when these cases were excluded, the pattern of results remained the same.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grants MH079369 and MH101168 to Lauren B. Alloy.

Authors’ Contributions

A.S. generated hypotheses, created the database, ran and interpreted analyses, and drafted the manuscript; D.P.M. aided in data analysis and provided feedback on the manuscript; C.L.C. conducted the assays and provided substantial feedback on all drafts of the manuscript; L.M.E. provided substantial feedback on all drafts of the manuscript; L.Y.A. helped write the grant that funded the study, and provided feedback on the manuscript; L.B.A. helped design the original study and write the grant that funded the study, participated in the design and coordination of this study, and provided feedback on all drafts of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grants MH101168 and MH079369 to L.B.A.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but may be available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Correspondence to Lauren B. Alloy.

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Stumper, A., Moriarity, D.P., Coe, C.L. et al. Pubertal Status and Age are Differentially Associated with Inflammatory Biomarkers in Female and Male Adolescents. J Youth Adolescence 49, 1379–1392 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01101-3

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Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Puberty
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Inflammation