Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH)-degrading activity was investigated in human cord, maternal, and euthyroid adult sera by measuring (a) the rate of disappearance of TRH and (b) the rate of formation of degradation products. The rate of TRH degradation in cord and maternal sera was 25-33% of that in euthyroid adult serum. Concomitantly, in cord and maternal sera, the rate of formation of proline, a major TRH degradation product in serum, was one-quarter to one-third that in euthyroid adult sera. The differences were highly significant (P less than 0.001). The decreased levels of TRH-degrading activity in cord and maternal sera cannot be explained by (a) the presence of a dialyzable inhibitor, (b) the absence of an activator of TRH degradation, or (c) a reversal of the degradation process. There was no difference in the types of radioactive degradation products formed by cord, maternal, and euthyroid adult sera. The low level of TRH-degrading activity and its possible relationship to high thyrotropin-stimulating hormone levels in cord serum suggest that TRH-degrading activity may be a factor to consider in investigations of the perinatal pituitary-thyroid axis, but further studies are needed to determine the role of serum degradation of TRH in regulating physiological levels of TRH.
J T Neary, C Nakamura, I J Davies, M Soodak, F Maloof