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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 May;87(5):2290-6.

Evidence that GnRH decreases with gonadal steroid feedback but increases with age in postmenopausal women.

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Reproductive Endocrine Unit and the National Center for Infertility Research, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Studies of the effects of gonadal steroid negative feedback and age on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis in postmenopausal women (PMW) have identified significant but inconsistent changes in gonadotropin dynamics. In the current study, we investigated the effect of gonadal steroid replacement and age on overall GnRH secretion estimated by using submaximal GnRH receptor blockade. Twenty-four healthy PMW, 45-55 yr (n = 13) and 70-80 yr (n = 11), were studied. Subjects were studied at baseline (BL) on no hormone replacement therapy, after 1 month of transdermal estrogen (50 microg/d; E) and again after a further month of E and 7 d of transvaginal progesterone (100 mg bid; E + P). At each admission, blood was sampled every 30 min for 4 (BL and E) or 8 h (E + P) before and 10 h after sc administration of a submaximal dose (5 microg/kg) of the NAL-GLU GnRH antagonist ([Ac-D2Nal(1), D4ClPhe(2), DPal(3), Arg(5), DGlu(AA)(6), DAla(10)] GnRH). Percent inhibition of LH was calculated by expressing the difference between the nadir following GnRH antagonist administration and the preantagonist baseline as a percent of the baseline. Physiologic E and P levels were achieved with the appropriate hormone replacement regimens. Mean LH levels decreased from baseline with E alone and decreased further with E + P (81.4 +/- 6.6, 68.2 +/- 8.1 and 48.0 +/- 4.3 IU/liter, respectively; P < 0.005). Percent inhibition of LH following submaximal GnRH receptor blockade decreased with age (57.6 +/- 1.8% in young PMW vs. 51.4 +/-2.2% in old PMW; P < 0.05) implying an increase in GnRH secretion with age. There was an increase in percent inhibition of LH in response to submaximal GnRH receptor blockade with E and a further increase with E + P (54.8 +/-1.5%, 58.8 +/- 1.9% and 69.9 +/- 2.8%, respectively; P < 0.05), indicating a progressive decrease in endogenous GnRH secretion with gonadal steroid feedback. Mean LH and FSH levels were lower at baseline in old compared with young PMW. However, the effect of gonadal steroid feedback on endogenous GnRH secretion was similar in young and old PMW.


1) The overall quantity of GnRH secretion increases with age as demonstrated by the progressive decrease in LH inhibition following submaximal GnRH antagonist administration with increasing age; 2) E negative feedback is associated with a decrease in GnRH secretion (as indicated by an increased percent inhibition of LH following submaximal GnRH receptor blockade); 3) E2 and P are associated with a further decease in overall amount of GnRH secreted; and 4) Age does not dampen the inhibition of hypothalamic GnRH secretion by E and P in PMW.

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