During states of stress, hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal function can be suppressed. One putative mediator of this stress response may be glucocorticoids, which have widespread effects on thyroid and gonadal function. To characterize dynamic pituitary glycoprotein secretion during glucocorticoid administration, 24-h TSH, LH, FSH, and α-subunit pulses were measured in 10 healthy young subjects on 3 occasions: 1) at baseline, 2) during infusions of 100 mg hydrocortisone (HC) over 24 h, and 3) during infusions of 300 mg HC over 24 h. These HC infusions led to serum cortisol levels similar to the endogenous cortisol levels seen in moderate and severe stress. Both HC infusions had profound rapid effects on TSH levels, decreasing TSH pulse amplitude by 60% and abolishing the nocturnal TSH surge. However, TSH pulse frequency was unaltered. In contrast, HC infusions did not change mean or pulsatile LH, FSH, or α-subunit secretion. These results suggest that stress levels of cortisol acutely suppress TSH secretion at the pituitary level, with little effect on the TSH pulse generator. On the other hand, the effects of stress and/or hypercortisolism on the gonadal axis may require higher cortisol levels, more prolonged exposure, or other mediators of the stress response.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical