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Pulsatile ACTH secretion: Variation with time of day and relationship to cortisol

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0196-9781(88)90268-9
  • Acth
  • Cortisol
  • Pulsatile
  • Monkey


Abstract It has long been known that ACTH is secreted in an episodic fashion demonstrating circadian and ultradian rhythms. High intensity venous sampling has recently revealed that in addition to these larger ultradian fluctuations in hormone levels, plasma ACTH in rats demonstrates high frequency, low amplitude oscillations which have been called “micropulses.” These micropulses were not detected in previous studies due to sampling intervals of greater than 5 minutes. To investigate the presence of these ACTH micropulses in a primate species, blood samples were drawn from six chair-restrained rhesus monkeys at one-minute intervals for up to 70 minutes and plasma was assayed for immunoreactive ACTH. To assess the variation in ACTH micropulse parameters with time of day and the relationship to cortisol secretion, four of the monkeys were sampled for three 70-minute periods beginning at 0530, 1100, and 1730 hours, and plasma was assayed for immunoreactive ACTH and cortisol. Analysis of the data revealed that ACTH and cortisol are secreted in micropulses in rhesus monkeys with marked individual variation in the pattern of secretion and a concurrence of approximately 75% of ACTH and cortisol micropulses. Difference in pulse amplitude but not frequency appeared to contribute to the circadian variation in mean ACTH levels and a sampling interval of two minutes appeared to be adequate for accurately identifying micropulses of ACTH.

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