We examined the responsiveness of the pituitary- adrenal axis to ovine corticotropin-releasing hormone (oCRH) in 14 women with systemic lupus erythematosus receiving chronic, alternate day glucocorticoid therapy with prednisone. Testing was done twice and in a random order (at 2000 h) on the day when the steroid was taken (12 h after the last dose) and on the day when no glucocorticoid was administered (36 h after the last dose). Plasma ACTH and cortisol responses were markedly blunted on the day of treatment and mildly blunted on the day off treatment compared to those in normal subjects. Altered metabolic clearance of exogenous oCRF was not responsible for this difference, since the plasma disappearance curves of immunoreactive oCRH were similar on both days. The degree of suppression was dependent on the dose of prednisone, and the amount of cortisol secreted during the oCRH test was directly proportional to the logarithm of the concurrent plasma ACTH level. Thus, the cortisol response to ACTH was normal in all patients. These data suggest that the blunting of responsiveness to oCRH on both days of testing represents prednisolone suppression of the corticotroph cell. Despite this, the adrenal glands retain normal responsiveness to ACTH, suggesting that moderate decreases in daily ACTH secretion are compatible with sustaining normal adrenal function. Hence, the site of the mild suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis during chronic, alternate day treatment with glucocorticoids is central, whereas the adrenal glands appear to remain functionally unaffected.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical