Steroidal regulation of biologically active luteinizing hormone secretion in men and women

Johannes D. Veldhuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The biological activity of circulating luteinizing hormone (LH)molecules can be assessed with high sensitivity, specificity, and precision by the in-vitro rat interstitial (Leydig)-cell testosterone (RICT) bioassay. Compared to immunoreactive estimates of the LH content of plasma, the living Leydig-cell bioassay integrates the functional in-vitro potency of all circulating LH isoforms, while simultaneously reflecting the effects of otherwise potentially confounding in-vivo antagonists of LH action on steroidogenesis. Here, we review the pathophysiological regulation by steroid hormones of bioactive LH secretion and clearance in men and women. Our investigations and those in the available literature indicate that: (i) Exogenous (non-aromatizable) 5-±-dihydrotestosterone infusion suppresses LH bioactivity, whereas blockade of the endogenous androgen receptor with flutamide increases secretion of biopotent LH in men; (ii) endogenous androgen excess due to a masculinizing testosterone-secreting adrenal tumour in a post-menopausal woman reversibly suppressed plasma LH bioactivity markedly; (iii) exogenous oestradiol infusion will reduce whereas the antioestrogen, tamoxifen-HC1, can increase bioactive LH secretion in young men; (iv) the effect of anti-oestrogen is blunted in healthy older men; (v) endogenous hyperoestrogenism due to an adrenal oestrogen-secreting tumour in a middle-aged man with gynaecomastia profoundly but reversibly inhibited bioactive LH secretion; (vi) in post-menopausal women, exogenous oestrogen administration, whether oral (diethylstilbestrol), percutaneous (oestradiol), or intravaginal (oestradiolimpregnated silastic ring), exerts a temporally biphasic effect on basal bioactive LH secretion, i.e. acute suppression (within 24 h), subacute escape (at 5-10 days), and longer-term inhibition (30 days); (vii) during the normal menstrual cycle, bioactive LH secretion is pulsatile and both frequency and amplitude regulated; and (viii) oestrogen exposure can enhance gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH)'s stimulatory action on biologically active LH secretion, resulting in so-called GnRH self-priming. Oestrogen's facilitative effects are achieved by a novel mechanism, in 84 which oestrogen augments LH secretory burst mass and duration. Moreover, GnRH dose-LH secretory response studies show that oestrogen promotes an increase in GnRH efficacy (maximal effects) but not GnRH sensitivity (potency or half-maximally effective doses of GnRH We conclude that steroid hormones are primary regulator o physiologically pulsatile bioactive LH secretion in healthy men and women. Moreover, steroids exert potent pathological effects on biologically active LH release in conditions of selective hyperandrogenism or hyperoestrogenism due to steroid-secreting adrenal or gonadal tumours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-96
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Reproduction
StatePublished - Nov 1993


  • Bioactive
  • Gonadotrophin
  • Human
  • Pituitary
  • Pulsatile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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