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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1987 Jul;65(1):176-82.

Immunoreactive corticotropin-releasing hormone present in human plasma may be derived from both hypothalamic and extrahypothalamic sources.


Immunoreactive CRH concentrations were determined in human plasma using an immunoaffinity chromatographic extraction procedure and sensitive RIA. Immunoreactive CRH was detectable in the plasma of all normal subjects (mean +/- SD, 6.2 +/- 2.4 pg/mL; n = 15). Basal (0800-1000 h) plasma immunoreactive CRH levels were significantly lower in patients with Cushing's syndrome due to adrenal (2.8 +/- 1.1 pg/mL; n = 4) or pituitary adenomas (2.9 +/- 0.8 pg/mL; n = 5), in patients with hypothalamic hypopituitarism (3.2 +/- 0.9 pg/mL; n = 5), and in glucocorticoid-treated patients (3.9 +/- 1.9 pg/mL, n = 8). Basal plasma CRH levels were also low in patients with acromegaly (2.8 +/- 0.8 pg/mL; n = 14) and insulin-treated diabetic patients whose pituitary-adrenal function was normal (3.6 +/- 1.0 pg/mL; n = 12). In normal subjects plasma CRH levels increased after insulin-induced hypoglycemia; this response was abolished by the prior administration of dexamethasone. In contrast, basal plasma CRH levels were not affected by prior administration of metyrapone or dexamethasone. No evidence for diurnal variation in plasma immunoreactive CRH was found in normal subjects. In addition, in normal subjects oral glucose administration elicited a significant increase in plasma CRH (basal, 7.3 +/- 0.9 pg/mL; peak 30 min after glucose, 16.7 +/- 5.8 pg/mL; n = 5; P less than 0.05) without concomitant changes in ACTH. Gel filtration of extracts of pooled plasma from normal subjects revealed a major component of immunoreactive CRH in the position of synthetic rat CRH. Immunoreactive CRH-sized material had the same retention time as authentic rat CRH in a reverse phase high pressure liquid chromatography system. The content of immunoreactive CRH in human placenta, pancreas, and adrenal gland was much larger than that in hypothalamus. These findings suggest that immunoreactive CRH is present in peripheral plasma; the increase in plasma immunoreactive CRH after insulin-induced hypoglycemia may reflect stimulation of hypothalamic CRH release; the increase in plasma immunoreactive CRH after glucose administration may reflect extrahypothalamic CRH release; and the lack of diurnal variation in plasma immunoreactive CRH together with the lack of suppression of CRH by dexamethasone suggest that basal plasma CRH is of extrahypothalamic origin.

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