Rhythmic and nonrhythmic modes of anterior pituitary Gland secretion

Johannes D. Veldhuis, Michael L. Johnson, German Lizarralde, Ali Iranmanesh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Because of confounding effects of subject-specific and hormone-specific metabolic clearance, the nature of anterior pituitary secretory events in vivo is difficult to ascertain. We review an approach to this problem, in which deconvolu-tion analysis is used to dissect the underlying secretory behavior of an endocrine gland quantitatively from available serial plasma hormone concentration measurements assuming one- or two-compartment elimination kinetics. This analytical tool allows one to ask the following physiological questions: (a) does the anterior pituitary gland secrete exclusively in randomly dispersed bursts, and/or does a tonic (constitutive) mode of interburst hormone secretion exist? and (b) what secretory mechanisms generate the circadian or nyctohemeral rhythms in blood concentrations of pituitary hormones? Waveform-independent deconvolution analysis of 24-h serum hormone concentration profiles of immunoreactive growth hormone (GH), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and βendorphin in normal men sampled every 10 min showed that (a) anterior pituitary gland secretion in vivo occurs in an exclusively burstlike mode for all hormones except TSH and prolactin (for the latter two, a mixed burst and basal mode pertains); (b) significant nyctohemeral regulation of secretory burst frequency alone is not demonstrable for any hormone; (c) prominent 24-h variations in secretory-burst amplitude alone are delineated for ACTH and LH; (d) TSH, GH, and βendorphin are both frequency and amplitude controlled; (e) prolactin manifests 24-h rhythms in both secretory-burst amplitude and nadir secretory rates; (f) no significant diurnal variations occur in FSH secretory parameters; and (g) a fixed hormone half-life yields good fits of the 24-h serum hormone concentration series, which indicates that there is no need to introduce diurnal variations in hormone half-lives. In summary, the normal human anterior pituitary gland appears to release its various (glyco)protein hormones via intermittent secretory episodes that are apparently unassociated with significant basal hormone secretion, except in the case of TSH and prolactin. Hormone-specific amplitude and/or frequency control of secretory burst activity over 24 h provides the mechanistic basis for the classically recognized nyctohemeral rhythms in plasma concentrations of adenohypophyseal hormones in the human.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-379
Number of pages9
JournalChronobiology International
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1992


  • Clearance
  • Hormone
  • Pulsatile
  • Rhythm
  • Secretion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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