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The steroid 11-oxygenation index (i.e. the ratio of the urinary metabolites of cortisol precursors to those of cortisol) has been used by Hill (1960) and by Edwards, Makin & Barratt (1964) in the diagnosis of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Both showed that any circadian variations in the index were small compared with the gross abnormalities encountered in this condition. In the course of physiological studies on temperature and renal excretory circadian rhythms we have observed a small but definite circadian variation in the steroid 11-oxygenation index in normal men.

Six male subjects (ages ranging from 21 to 55 yr.) followed a routine consisting of rest, light activity, feeding and drinking, which was repeated every 90 min. during a 27 hr. experiment. Urine was collected for 3 hr. periods and the 11-deoxy and 11-oxy 17-hydroxycorticosteroids (11-deoxy and 11-oxy 17-OHCS) were separately estimated (Few, 1968) in each sample. The steroid 11-oxygenation index was

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HD Piggins and DJ Cutler

Biological oscillations with an endogenous period of near 24 h (circadian rhythms) are generated by the master circadian pacemaker or clock located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus. This clock is synchronised to recurring environmental signals conveyed by selective neural pathways. One of the main chemical constituents of SCN neurones is vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP). Such neurones are retinorecipient and activated by light. Exogenous application of VIP resets the SCN circadian clock in a light-like manner, both in vivo and in vitro. These resetting actions appear to be mediated through the VPAC2 receptor (a type of receptor for VIP). Unexpectedly, genetically ablating expression of the VPAC2 receptor renders the circadian clock arrhythmic at the molecular, neurophysiological and behavioural levels. These findings indicate that this intrinsic neuropeptide acting through the VPAC2 receptor participates in both resetting to light and maintenance of ongoing rhythmicity of the SCN.

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Yvan Touitou, José Sulon, André Bogdan, Catherine Touitou, Alain Reinberg, Hervé Beck, Jean-Claude Sodoyez, Emilie Demey-Ponsart, and Henri Van Cauwenberge

Circadian changes in plasma 18-hydroxy-11-deoxycorticosterone (18-OH-DOC), total and unbound cortisol were studied in four groups: seven healthy young men, six elderly men, six elderly women and six elderly demented patients of both sexes. The daily activities of the subjects were synchronous; blood samples were taken every 4 h and 4 hourly urine samples were collected only from the young men. A circadian rhythm was defined for plasma 18-OH-DOC, total and unbound cortisol in all groups; the secretory patterns of these steroids were parallel, as were the profiles of urinary 18-OH-DOC and unconjugated cortisol. When compared with respect to sex, the 24-h mean level of total cortisol was higher in women; that of unbound cortisol was higher in the three groups of elderly patients than in the young men. No major changes in plasma steroids were observed between elderly demented patients (mainly women) and healthy elderly women. The phasing of total and unbound cortisol showed no major modifications with age, sex or senile dementia. Acrophases of 18-OH-DOC were earlier in elderly patients than in young men. Amplitudes were not modified with sex in elderly patients but were always lower in the demented patients. A circadian rhythm was defined for 18-OH-DOC, unconjugated cortisol, 17-hydroxycorticosteroids (17-OH-CS) and 17-ketosteroids in the urine of the young men. The acrophases of 18-OH-DOC and unbound cortisol were close, as were those of 17-OH-CS and 17-ketosteroids. The lag was short between the acrophases of 18-OH-DOC in plasma and urine and between those of plasma unbound cortisol and urinary unconjugated cortisol; it was much larger between the acrophases of plasma total cortisol and 17-OH-CS.

Thus, the process of ageing, and the possible alterations in the central nervous system which are often seen in normal ageing, induced no major modifications in the temporal organization of adrenocortical function, even in subjects who were very advanced in age.

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E. M. Clement, P. C. B. MacKinnon, and R. Sheaves


In the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) of prooestrous rats or acutely ovariectomized oestrogentreated adults a marked but short-lived increase in adrenergic activity occurs at 16.00 h, 2 h before the oestrogen-dependent surge of gonadotrophins at 18.00 h. In this study oestrogen-stimulated (noon on day 1) 22-day-old female rats were used which are known to produce surge levels of prolactin at 18.00 h on day 2 and surges of both prolactin and LH at 18.00 h on day 3; although similar treatment of 18-day-old animals or oil-treated 22-day-old rats failed to produce these effects. Radioenzymatic assays of adrenaline concentrations and of the activity of its synthesizing enzyme (phenylethanolamine-N-methyl transferase; PNMT, EC in the MBH of oestrogen-treated 22-day-old rats showed significant (P< 0·05–0·01) increases in both parameters at 16.00 h (i.e. 2 h before surge levels of gonadotrophins) on days 2 and 3 when compared with other times of day. Such effects were not seen in oil-treated 22-day-old animals or in oestrogen-treated 16-day-old rats. Noradrenaline and dopamine concentrations in the MBH of oestrogen-treated 22-day-old rats remained at baseline levels on days 2 and 3 with the exception of noradrenaline at 17.00 h on day 3 when levels appeared higher (P<0·05) than at either 15.00 or 16.00 h. Subsequent measurements of PNMT activity in oestrogen-treated 22-day-old rats at 4-hourly intervals throughout days 2 and 3 showed the presence of a clear circadian rhythm with peak levels occurring at 16.00 h. In conclusion, a temporal relationship (not necessarily specific) exists between increased adrenergic activity in the MBH of oestrogen-treated 22-day-old rats and a surge of gonadotrophins (LH and/or prolactin) 2 h later. This relationship apparently depends on an oestrogen-stimulated circadian rhythm of PNMT activity.

J. Endocr. (1986) 109, 45–51

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M. H. Hastings, A. P. Walker, and J. Herbert


This study investigated the relationship of two overt circadian rhythms, locomotor activity and melatonin synthesis in the pineal gland, by comparing their responses to asymmetrical reductions in photoperiod. Transfer of male Syrian hamsters from long to short daylengths led to an increase in the duration of both locomotor activity and the period of melatonin synthesis. Over the course of re-entrainment, the two rhythms were held in a stable phase relationship, and the direction of the switch did not influence the rate of decompression or the final phase relationships established after 8 weeks in short daylengths. Decompression of the activity rhythm was not influenced by pinealectomy. Exposure to short photoperiods caused gonadal regression and a consequent decline in serum testosterone levels from 10 to <1 nmol/l. The direction of the photoperiodic switch did not affect the time-course of gonadal regression. These data demonstrate the important influence of photoperiod upon the duration of the nocturnal peak of melatonin production by the pineal and also demonstrate that this effect is one example of a more widespread response of the circadian system. A qualitatively similar signal controls both locomotor activity and melatonin synthesis, although the neural basis of this common mechanism is unclear.

J. Endocr. (1987) 114, 221–229

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E. Carbajo-Pérez, S. Carbajo, A. Orfao, J. L. Vicente-Villardón, and R. Vázquez


Flow cytometric analysis of nuclei stained with propidium iodide (PI) has been used to study the distribution of cells throughout the different phases of the cell cycle in the anterior pituitary gland of adult male Sprague–Dawley rats at different times of the day. According to PI fluorescence intensity the relative numbers of cells in S phase (cells with a DNA content between that of somatic cells in interphase (2n) and that of somatic cells after duplication of the DNA prior to cell division (4n)) and G2/M phase (4n) were calculated. A significant circadian rhythm was found for cells in both the S phase (P < 0·05) and the G2/M phase (P < 0·01). The wave of cells in S phase with a peak at the middle of the light period (14.00 h) precedes by about 6 h the wave of cells in G2/M phase (peak at 20.00 h). Most of the DNA-replicating cells were found during the early S phase at 11.00 h, advancing further up to the middle of this phase at 14.00 h. Cells were distributed homogeneously throughout the S phase at 17.00 h. These data strongly suggest that the beginning of the light period triggers a wave of cells to leave G0/G1 into S phase.

Journal of Endocrinology (1991) 129, 329–333

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Diurnal variations in testosterone in plasma were studied in two inbred strains of mice, BALB/cBy and C57BL/6By. Blood was taken every 4 h over 24 h from male mice at 70 days of age using a lighting regimen of 12 h light to 12 h darkness (lights on 07.00–19.00 h). Values of testosterone in plasma were transformed to log(testosterone in ng/ml) to reduce inequality of variance between groups. In both strains, the distribution of pooled values over all times of day was bimodal, and bimodality was present at most times of day. Circadian variation was evaluated by dividing the transformed values into high and low modes at each time of day and testing for significant variation in the number of animals in each mode over time using the chi-squared test. Significant circadian variation was found in the BALB/cBy strain of mice but not in the C57BL/6By strain. The highest number of high mode cases for BALB/cBy mice was at 22.00 h and the lowest number of high mode cases was at 10.00 h. The log transformation and bimodality of these values are presented as biological expressions of blood levels of testosterone and of tissue responses to these levels in the male mouse. The strain difference in circadian variation may be related to reported circadian changes in behaviour and to possible genetic effects on sensitivity to environmental change or capacity to express circadian rhythms.

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The concentration of ovine placental lactogen (oPL) was measured by radioimmunoassay in plasma samples from chronically catheterized ewes and their fetuses from day 110 of gestation to term (about day 145).

Concentrations of oPL in the plasma of the mother and fetus were raised after surgery, and remained raised for 3–5 days after the operation. Concentrations of oPL were greatest in the fetus at days 120–124 of gestation, and then declined until delivery. Mean concentrations of oPL in the fetus in late pregnancy for single, twin and triplet pregnancies were 101±6 (s.e.m.), 100±11 and 117±59 ng/ml respectively and were not significantly different.

Mean concentrations of oPL in the mother in late pregnancy for single, twin and triplet pregnancies were 718±227, 1387±160 and 1510±459 ng/ml respectively; the difference between these means was significant (P <0·05). Peak concentrations were noted at days 130–139 of gestation after which concentrations fell and were significantly lower on the day of delivery (P <0·01). Concentrations of oPL in the mother showed no circadian rhythm. The mean concentrations of oPL in maternal plasma during late pregnancy was significantly correlated to the combined fetal weight at birth (r = 0·624, P <0·01).

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Yvan Touitou, Alain Carayon, Alain Reinberg, André Bogdan, and Hervé Beck

Effects of age, sex and mental condition on the circadian and circannual rhythmicity of plasma prolactin in human subjects were investigated. Circannual changes were recorded on a circadian basis in January, March, June and October in four groups of subjects: seven young men, six elderly men, six elderly women and six senile demented patients (two men and four women). Blood samples were drawn every 4 h over a 24-h period at the four sampling sessions. Circadian rhythms of the hormone were validated in all groups and at all sampling sessions except twice in elderly demented subjects. The 24-h mean levels of prolactin in plasma were approximately the same in young and elderly subjects. The circadian acrophases were most often located in the vicinity of 02.00–04.00 h. The circannual rhythmicity of the hormone showed a sex difference; the rhythm was not validated in either young or elderly men but was detected in the groups of elderly women and elderly demented patients (mainly women). The acrophases were located in May. This paper strongly suggests a sex difference in the circannual rhythmicity of plasma prolactin levels in elderly subjects.

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The physiological regulation of the plasma corticosteroid concentration, measured by competitive protein-binding, was studied in female rhesus monkeys (M. mulatta) sedated with phencyclidine hydrochloride. Morning basal levels of plasma corticosteroids were found to be in the range 8·0–25·2 μg/100 ml, which is lower than that previously reported in this species. A circadian rhythm in plasma cortisol concentration was demonstrated. Prolonged sedation with phencyclidine was associated with a gradual increase in the plasma cortisol concentration. Synthetic α1–24 adrenocorticotrophic hormone given intravenously caused a rapid rise in plasma cortisol, the minimum effective dose was between 1 and 10 ng/kg body weight and the response was maximal after 1000 ng/kg. The administration of lysinevasopressin and the induction of hypoglycaemia by insulin were both followed by an increase in the plasma corticosteroid concentration. Metyrapone caused a decline in plasma 11-hydroxycorticosteroids and a concomitant increase in total corticosteroids measured by competitive protein-binding. It is concluded that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system in the rhesus monkey functions in a manner which is qualitatively and quantitatively similar to that of man.