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Steroids. 2013 Sep;78(9):888-95. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2013.04.015. Epub 2013 May 9.

Combined quantification of corticotropin-releasing hormone, cortisol-to-cortisone ratio and progesterone by liquid chromatography-Tandem mass spectrometry in placental tissue.

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Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany.


With mid-gestation the production of placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) starts to steadily increase. The fetal peptide CRH excerts direct functions at the feto-maternal interface (vasodilatation, timing of birth) via its interaction with progesterone and indirectly ensures maturation and growth of fetal organ systems for delivery by driving fetal cortisol production via its induction of adrenocorticotropic hormone release. This feedback loop is tightly controlled by the amount of enzymatic cortisol/cortisone turnover in the placental syncytiotrophoblast by 11β-hydroxy-steroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11β-HSD2). Traditionally, placental tissue hormones have been quantified by immunological methods (e.g. RIA or ELISA), which have the drawback of possible cross-reactivity and tissue perturbations. Most importantly, it is not possible to quantify CRH and steroid hormones, such as cortisol, cortisone and progesterone together in the same sample with these methods. Hence, we aimed to develop and validate a quantitative mass spectrometry (MS) method for multi-modal quantification of these placental hormones: While CRH was readily detectable throughout the placenta, the placental levels of progesterone and especially cortisol and cortisone were higher at the placental base facing the maternal side. The HPLC-MS/MS procedure showed excellent selectivity and sufficient limit of quantification in placental tissue homogenates to allow for simultaneous detection of CRH, cortisol and cortisone, and progesterone.


CRH; LC-Tandem MS; Placenta

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