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Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Jan 15;45(2):222-8.

Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis effects on plasma homovanillic acid in man.

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  • 1McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, USA.



Effects of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis on central dopaminergic systems have been proposed to underlie the development of psychotic symptoms in depression. This study examined HPA axis hormone effects on plasma levels of homovanillic acid (HVA), the dopamine metabolite, in healthy volunteers, using a placebo-controlled, double-blind, random-assignment, crossover design. On the basis of preliminary studies, we hypothesized that HPA axis hormones would produce delayed effects on plasma HVA levels measured in the afternoon.


Ten healthy subjects underwent a standard protocol on four occasions and each time received ovine corticotropin-releasing hormone, synthetic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, or placebo. Plasma HVA was measured at 9 AM and 4 PM on Day 1, immediately prior to administration of the test substance at 7 PM, then at 30-60-min intervals until 11 PM. Plasma HVA levels were subsequently obtained at 9 AM and 4 PM on Days 2 and 3.


As predicted, there were significant differences between test substances in delayed effects on afternoon HVA levels measured on Days 2 and 3, with cortisol and ACTH producing greater increases in HVA than placebo. Acute effects of HPA axis hormones on HVA were not found, while differences between test substances in delayed effects on morning HVA levels approached significance.


HPA axis hormones exert delayed effects on plasma HVA levels in healthy humans.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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