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Episodic Luteinizing Hormone Secretion in Man PULSE ANALYSIS, CLINICAL INTERPRETATION, PHYSIOLOGIC MECHANISMS

R. J. Santen and C. W. Bardin

1Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033

Published October 1973

The demonstration that luteinizing hormone (LH) release from the pituitary is episodic rather than constant raises fundamental questions regarding the physiologic control of pulsatile LH secretion and its possible alteration in patients with gonadal disorders. To evaluate this mode of LH secretion, quantitative means of analyzing LH pulse amplitude, frequency, shape, and area were established and utilized to study normal subjects and patients with disorders of gonadotropin secretion. Similar patterns of LH secretion were observed in normal men, in women during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, and in patients with hyper- and hypogonadotropism, hirsuitism, and amenorrhea (mean pulse amplitude 39-179% from nadir to peak, frequency 2.7-3.9 secretory spikes/6 h). These observations suggested that the pattern of LH secretion is similar in both normal individuals and in those with a variety of pathologic conditions. By contrast, the pattern of pulsatile secretion appeared to differ in the following conditions. LH pulses of higher amplitude (333±170%) and lower frequency (1.6±0.24 SEM/6 h) characterized the secretory patterns of women during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, suggesting that gonadal steroids may modulate LH pulses. LH pulses of low amplitude (26±2.1%) and frequency (1.3±0.36/6 h) were observed in women with anorexia nervosa.

Either integrated LH levels or a mean LH level determined from multiple samples provided a more accurate reflection of gonadotropin secretion than the use of single LH measurements. With multiple sampling over 6 h, it was possible to reduce the 95% confidence limit of LH estimates from ±50-90 to ±12%. This allowed normal subjects to be distinguished from patients with low or moderately elevated LH levels in whom gonadotropin levels in single samples were often in the “normal range.”

Several aspects of the physiologic control of pulsatile LH secretion were studied. The concordance of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) with LH pulses progressively increased as LH pulse height increased (P < 0.01) suggesting possible hypothalamic mediation of gonadotropin pulses. Measurement of the “apparent half-life” of LH after secretory spikes revealed half times of 34-233 min. It is likely that this variability was attributable to at least two phenomena: (a) constant low level LH secretion that continued after certain secretory episodes but not others; (b) variable mixing of newly secreted LH into at least two pools. The alpha adrenergic-blocking agents, chlorpromazine and phentolamine, failed to block LH secretory spikes at doses sufficient to result in a 30 mm drop in systolic blood pressure in normal men.

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