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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999 Jan;84(1):317-22.

Serum concentration of 20K human growth hormone (20K hGH) measured by a specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Study Group of 20K hGH.

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  • 1Department of Medicine 2, Tokyo Women's Medical University, Japan.


Several GH isoforms have been identified in pituitary and serum, the most abundant of which is the 22K human GH (hGH) isoform. The 20K hGH isoform is produced by alternative splicing of GH messenger ribonucleic acid and comprises approximately 10% of all GH in the pituitary. The physiological role of 20K hGH remains to be determined, partly because of the lack of a simple and specific assay. We have established sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) specific to 20K and 22K hGH. To determine whether regulation of 20K hGH secretion is the same as that for 22K hGH, we measured serum concentrations of both species of hGH in normal subjects and patients with a variety of endocrine disorders. The serum levels of 20K hGH after overnight fasting was 118 +/- 178 pg/mL (n = 282) in normal women, significantly higher than that in normal men (64 +/- 170 pg/mL; n = 226). However, there was no difference in the proportion of 20K hGH to 20K plus 22K hGH between men (6.3 +/- 2.6%, mean +/- SD; n = 176) and women (6.3 +/- 2.1%; n = 263). No correlation was detected between the ratio of 20K hGH and age, body height, body weight, or body fat mass in normal subjects. The proportion of 20K hGH was significantly (P < 0.001) higher in patients with active acromegaly (9.2 +/- 2.2%; n = 33) and patients with anorexia nervosa (9.0 +/- 1.9; n = 8), both of which are characterized by chronic elevation of circulating GH levels. The proportion of 20K hGH in successfully treated acromegalic patients did not differ from that in normal subjects, suggesting that GH-producing pituitary tumors secrete a higher proportion of 20K hGH, or that a chronic excess of 22K hGH alters the MCR of 20K hGH. The values in patients with adult GH deficiency, hyperthyroidism, primary hypothyroidism, or GH-independent short stature did not differ from those in normal subjects. The 20K ratio did not change after acute GH provocative tests, such as the insulin tolerance test and the GHRH test. These results suggest that secretion of 20K hGH from the pituitary is under the same control as that of 22K hGH. This new assay may provide a tool for understanding the physiological or pathophysiological role of the 20K hGH isoform.

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