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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Studies of ACTH secretion control in 116 cases of Cushing's syndrome.

Plasma ACTH (normal value: 0.16 plus or minus mU/100 ml) was measured in 116 patients with Cushing's syndrome, using a bioassay including dynamic tests and sequential determinations. In 10 patients with adrenal tumors ACTH levels were nondetectable (ND) or low, and usually nonstimulatable. In 10 patients with ectopic ACTH secretion high levels (0.42 plus or minus 0.07 mU/100 ml) were measured. The extracts of 6 tumors yielded an ACTH-like substance. Forty-three patients with Cushing's disease (without pituitary tumor) had, before treatment, a mean ACTH level of 0.18 plus or minus 0.01 mU/100 ml, accompanied by high levels of plasma cortisol (32.1 plus or minus 1.9 mug/100 ml). Irregular nycthemeral variations occurred. ACTH rose to 0.30 mU/100 ml after incomplete adrenalectomy (20 patients) and to 1.14 mU/100 ml after total adrenalectomy (21 patients). Dexamethasone (8 mg per day) suppressed ACTH levels. Metyrapone induced a normal ACTH rise, but at abnormal times. Lysine-vasopressin (LVP) induced an ACTH mean relative increase of 120% before, and of 140% after adrenalectomy (i.e., within the normal range). Six nonadrenalectomized patients with pituitary tumors showed similar abnormalities of ACTH regulation. However, the ACTH rise after LVP was above 500%. When pituitary tumors occurred after adrenalectomy (12 patients) the mean basal ACTH level was 18 mU/100 ml. Dexamethasone induced a 90% decrease, and LVP a 416% increase in ACTH levels. In 6 patients with nodular adrenal hyperplasia, ACTH was undetectable before treatment. After adrenalectomy, ACTH rose to 0.4 mU/100 ml (11 patients) and the increase after LVP was 90%. Five additional patients developed pituitary tumors. These data confirm the abnormalities of ACTH feedback regulation in Cushing's disease. However, even when pituitary tumors occur, ACTH levels can be altered by metyrapone, dexamethasone and LVP. This last test is of particular interest for the detection of pituitary tumors. The follow-up pattern of treated nodular adrenal hyperplasia appears to be very similar to that of Cushing's disease.[1]


  1. Studies of ACTH secretion control in 116 cases of Cushing's syndrome. Raux, M.C., Binoux, M., Luton, J.P., Gourmelen, M., Girard, F. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (1975) [Pubmed]
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