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Eur J Endocrinol. 1997 Dec;137(6):675-83.

Twenty-four-hour rhythms of plasma catecholamines and their relation to cardiovascular parameters in healthy young men.

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Department of Clinical Endocrinology, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Germany.


Diurnal and ultradian rhythms of plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine and their role in the regulation of cardiovascular parameters were investigated over 24 h of recumbency in a group of five men. Catecholamines were measured at 10 min intervals, and blood pressure and heart rate were recorded continuously. Norepinephrine and epinephrine rapidly fluctuated in each subject, with no obvious diurnal rhythm. Spectral analysis suggested two ultradian rhythms with periods of around 12 h and 50-100 min for both catecholamines. The pulse detection programs PULSAR and CLUSTER revealed 20-30 pulses/24 h for norepinephrine and epinephrine, with a significant correlation between the two rhythms (r = 0.63-0.80, P < 0.001). Neither the frequency nor the amplitude of these rapid fluctuations differed between day and night. Arousal in the morning caused a small increase in plasma catecholamines and getting out of bed a large increase. Thus changes in posture and activity are the main influences on the diurnal variations of plasma catecholamines reported previously, while the ultradian rhythms of sympathoadrenomedullary activity appear to be of intrinsic origin. Blood pressure and heart rate exhibited a diurnal rhythm with a nightly decrease. Arousal and rising from bed increased blood pressure and heart rate significantly. Although the amplitude of the rapid fluctuations of plasma catecholamines at times exceeded those caused by postural changes in the morning, when both plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine levels correlated highly with all cardiovascular parameters, correlations were not significant during recumbency. Thus the intrinsic ultradian fluctuations of plasma catecholamines appear not to be involved in the control of cardiovascular parameters during recumbency, and the increase in blood pressure and heart rate in the morning appears to be controlled by direct sympathetic neural input to the heart and vasculature in response to changes in activity and posture rather than by an endogenous surge of plasma catecholamines.

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