Genetic and phenotypic variation in UGT2B17, a testosterone-metabolizing enzyme, is associated with BMI in males

Andy Z X Zhu, Lisa S. Cox, Jasjit S. Ahluwalia, Caroline C. Renner, Dorothy K. Hatsukami, Neal L. Benowitz, Rachel F. Tyndale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective A number of candidate gene and genome-wide association studies have identified significant associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms, particularly in FTO and MC4R, and body weight. However, the association between copy number variation and body weight is less understood. Anabolic androgenic steroids, such as testosterone, can regulate body weight. In humans, UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 2B17 (UGT2B17) metabolizes testosterone to a metabolite, which is readily excreted in urine. We investigate the association between genetic and phenotypic variation in UGT2B17 and body weight. Materials and methods UGT2B17 deletion was genotyped and in-vivo UGT2B17 enzymatic activity (as measured by the 3-hydroxycotinine glucuronide to free 3-hydroxycotinine ratio) was measured in 400 Alaska Native individuals and 540 African Americans. Results In Alaska Native people, UGT2B17 deletion was strongly associated with lower BMI in male individuals (P<0.001), but not in female individuals, consistent with testosterone being a male dominant steroid. The sex-specific association between UGT2B17 deletion and lower BMI was also observed in African Americans (P=0.01 in male individuals). In both populations, UGT2B17 deletion was significantly associated with lower measured in-vivo UGT2B17 activity. In male individuals, lower in-vivo UGT2B17 activity was associated with lower BMI, as observed in the sex-specific genotypic association. Conclusion These data suggest that UGT2B17 deletion leads to reduced UGT2B17 activity, and lower BMI in male individuals. This is consistent with the hypothesis that reduced UGT2B17-mediated testosterone excretion results in higher testosterone levels. Future studies could confirm this hypothesis by directly measuring serum testosterone levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-269
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacogenetics and genomics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 22 2015

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© 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.


  • BMI
  • UGT2B17
  • obesity
  • testosterone metabolism


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