Diminished adrenal sensitivity and ACTH efficacy in obese premenopausal women

Ferdinand Roelfsema, Hanno Pijl, Daniel M. Keenan, Johannes D. Veldhuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: The ACTH-cortisol axis in women is activated and associated with decreased ACTH potency, estimated by relating ACTH and cortisol pulse masses. Recently, a new accurate method for constructing the endogenous dose-response relationship was introduced, which is based on the relation between ACTH concentrations and associated cortisol secretion rates within cortisol bursts. Hypothesis: The endogenous dose-response relation between ACTH and cortisol in obesity is changed, leading to diminished responsiveness. Subjects: Twenty-five obese premenopausal women and 16 normal weight premenopausal women were studied by 10-min blood sampling for 24 h. Outcomes: ACTH and cortisol secretion rates, analytical dose-response estimates of endogenous ACTH efficacy (maximal cortisol secretion), dynamic ACTH potency, and adrenal sensitivity (slope term) from 24-h ACTH-cortisol profiles were quantified. Results: The initial potency (negative logarithm) was -7.83±0.75 (mean±S.E.M.) in obese women and -10.14±1.08 in lean women (P=0.10), and the corresponding values for the recovery phase were -26.62±2.21 and -36.67±1.66 (P=0.004). The sensitivity (curve slope) amounted to 0.468±0.05 in obese women and 0.784±0.09 in normal weight women (P=0.004). The efficacy (maximal value) was 17.6±4.9 nmol/l per min in obese women and 26.3±3.8 nmol/l per min in normal weight women (P=0.009). Basal secretion rate, inflection point, and EC 50 values were not different. Bromocriptine or acipimox did not change the dose-response curve. Conclusion: The ACTH-cortisol relation in obesity in women is characterized by decreased sensitivity and efficacy, thus explaining non-elevated serum cortisol concentrations despite increased plasma ACTH levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-642
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean journal of endocrinology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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