Author(s): Alexander SL, Irvine CH, Livesey JH, Donald RA
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Abstract The effect of an acute fall in plasma cortisol on the secretion of CRH, arginine vasopressin (AVP), and ACTH was studied using our nonsurgical technique for collecting pituitary venous (PV) blood from horses. PV blood from six mares was collected continuously and divided into 30-sec segments for 0.5 h before and during a 3-h infusion of metyrapone, an 11-beta-hydroxylase inhibitor. During treatment, plasma cortisol fell (P < 0.01) to a mean nadir of 15\% of pretreatment levels, and 11-deoxy-cortisol rose (P < 0.02). Three mares became mildly agitated during treatment. Mean PV concentrations of CRH (P < 0.025), AVP (P < 0.05), and ACTH (P < 0.005) were higher during the second hour of treatment than before. For AVP (P < 0.05) and ACTH (P < 0.01), the amount secreted in peaks detected by CLUSTER analysis increased during treatment, whereas peak frequency did not. Responses, particularly in CRH and AVP, tended to be amplified during agitation. Increases in CRH, AVP, and ACTH secretion commenced when cortisol had fallen to 50-59\% of the initial value (P < 0.005 for each). By contrast, the cortisol concentration at this point varied 3-fold among mares. The ratio between PV concentrations of ACTH and CRH, which was used as an index of pituitary responsiveness to endogenous CRH, also rose (P < 0.005) as cortisol fell. The increase in this ratio preceded any significant change in CRH secretion and was maintained to the end of the experiment. We suggest that the initial response to falling cortisol in the horse is at the pituitary, via increased responsiveness to CRH. If cortisol continues to fall, AVP and then CRH secretion are stimulated. However, the magnitude of the hypothalamic response to hypocortisolemia may be augmented by concurrent stress. Last, the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis of the horse appears to monitor changes in plasma cortisol and not concentrations, at least in the short term.
This article was published in Endocrinology
and referenced in Journal of Steroids & Hormonal Science