An overdrive of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been postulated in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, little is known concerning the pulsatile modes of corticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol secretion in these patients. To further investigate this issue, spontaneous ACTH and cortisol release were evaluated in 16 normal-weight patients with PCOS and 16 control women. Nine PCOS patients and eight controls were studied between 8 AM and 12 AM (noon), and seven PCOS patients and eight controls between 11 PM and 3 AM. Venous blood samples were taken at 10-minute intervals. Cluster analysis was used to assess ACTH and cortisol pulse frequency and amplitude, deconvolution to calculate mean hormone secretion rates, and approximative entropy (ApEn) to measure the orderliness of ACTH and cortisol time-series data. PCOS patients compared with controls displayed increased ACTH and cortisol release (area under the curve [AUC] and mean plasma concentration) both in the morning and at night. This was not due to increased hormonal secretory burst frequency, but to higher hormonal interpeak valley concentrations and, in the case of ACTH, nighttime pulse amplitudes. Mean ACTH and cortisol secretion rates also were increased in PCOS patients. Further, both controls and PCOS patients exhibited significant (0 to 20 minutes lagged) concordance between individual daytime pulsatile ACTH and cortisol release episodes. As shown by increased ApEn values, PCOS patients had more disorderly daytime cortisol release. In addition, the normal daytime correlation between the amount of pulsatile ACTH and cortisol release as observed in the controls was lost in PCOS patients. Finally, cross-correlation analysis showed a more prominent negative correlation in PCOS patients versus controls between plasma cortisol and 40- to 120-minute delayed ACTH concentrations in the morning, indicating a more sustained negative feedback of cortisol on ACTH release in PCOS at this time. Taken together, these findings demonstrate the existence of multifaceted dysregulation of the HPA axis in PCOS.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism