Testosterone is produced by the gonads (by the Leydig cells in testes in men and by the ovaries in women), although small quantities are also produced by the adrenal glands in both sexes. It is an androgen, meaning that it stimulates the development of male characteristics.
Present in much greater levels in men than women, testosterone initiates the development of the male internal and external reproductive organs during feotal development and is essential for the production of sperm in adult life. This hormone also signals the body to make new blood cells, ensures that muscles and bones stay strong during and after puberty and enhances libido both in men and women.
Testosterone is linked to many of the changes seen in boys during puberty (including an increase in height, body and pubic hair growth, enlargement of the penis, testes and prostate gland and changes in sexual and aggressive behavior). It also regulates the secretion of luteinising hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. To effect these changes, testosterone is often converted into another androgen called dihydrotestosterone.
Testosterone is a 19 carbon steroid hormone and can be broken down into the following three sub-types:
1. Free Testosterone.
This is testosterone in its purest form. The reason it is called “free” is because there are no proteins attached to it. Unbound to other molecules, free Testosterone can enter cells and activate receptors in order to work its virile magic on your body and mind.This makes up to 2-3% of your total testosterone level.
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2. SHBG-bound Testosterone.
This makes up 40 to 60 percent of our total testosterone is bound to a protein called sex hormone-binding-globulin (SHBG). SHBG is produced in our livers and plays an important role in regulating the amount of free testosterone in our bodies.
3. Albumin-bound Testosterone.
The rest of your testosterone is bound to a protein called albumin. Albumin is a protein produced in the liver, and its job is to stabilize extra-cellular fluid volumes. Albumin-bound testosterone is bound weakly and can easily be broken down in order to create free testosterone.