The effects of decreasing the frequency of pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulation on pituitary responsiveness were studied in (a) men with isolated GnRH deficiency who had achieved normal sex steroid levels during prior long-term pulsatile GnRH replacement and (b) perifused dispersed pituitary cells from male rats in the absence of sex steroids. In three groups of four GnRH-deficient men, the frequency of GnRH stimulation was decreased at weekly intervals from (a) every 2-3-4 h (group I), (b) every 2-8 h without testosterone replacement (group II), or (c) every 2-8 h with testosterone replacement (group III). In three groups of three columns of perifused dispersed pituitary cells, pulses of GnRH were administered every 2, 4, or 8 h. In groups I and II, mean area under the luteinizing hormone (LH) curve increased (P less than 0.025) and serum testosterone levels fell (P less than 0.035) as the frequency of GnRH stimulation was decreased. In group III, the area under the LH curve also increased (P less than 0.01) although serum testosterone levels were constant, thereby demonstrating that the increase in pituitary responsiveness to slow frequencies of GnRH stimulation occurs independently of changes in the sex steroid hormonal milieu. The area under the LH curve also increased in the perifused dispersed rat pituitary cells when the frequency of GnRH administration was decreased to every 8 h (P less than 0.05), thus demonstrating that the enhanced pituitary responsiveness to slow frequencies of GnRH stimulation is maintained even in the complete absence of gonadal steroids. Nadir LH levels fell in all three groups (P less than 0.01) as the frequency of GnRH stimulation was decreased. In contrast, mean peak LH levels, the rate of LH rise, and the rate of endogenous LH decay were constant as the frequency of GnRH stimulation was decreased. Finally, as the GnRH interpulse interval increased, mean LH levels fell, and mean follicle-stimulating hormone levels were stable or fell. These results indicate that (a) pituitary responsiveness to GnRH increases at slower frequencies of GnRH stimulation in models both in vivo and in vitro, (b) these changes in pituitary responsiveness occur independently of changes in gonadal steroid secretion, and (c) the increases in LH pulse amplitude and area under the curve at slow frequencies of GnRH stimulation are due to decreases in nadir, but not peak, LH levels. Slowing of the frequency of GnRH secretion may be an important independent variable in the control of pituitary gonadotropin secretion.
J S Finkelstein, T M Badger, L S O'Dea, D I Spratt, W F Crowley