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NJ Lewis-Barned, WH Sutherland, RJ Walker, SA de Jong, HL Walker, EA Edwards, V Markham and A Goulding

This study was designed to determine the effect of menopause and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on plasma cholesteryl ester fatty acid (CEFA) composition and insulin sensitivity and the relationships between these variables in perimenopausal women (aged 40-55 years) including 49 who were premenopausal and 32 who were postmenopausal. Plasma cholesteryl ester proportions of dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (20:3 n-6) were correlated significantly with insulin sensitivity index (r=-0.319, P=0.005), fasting serum insulin levels (r=0.230, P=0.038), body mass index (r=0.242, P=0.03) and per cent body fat (r=0.329, P=0.003) in perimenopausal women (n=81). Similar associations were observed in premenopausal women. Regression analysis suggested the relationships between 20:3 n-6 proportions and indices of insulin action may be partly mediated by levels of adiposity. In postmenopausal women, 6 months of HRT significantly (P=0.008) increased the ratio of arachidonic acid (20:4 n-6) to linoleic acid (18:2 n-6), which is an indicator of activity in the pathway of 20:4 n-6 synthesis, compared with placebo. These findings suggest that the type of fat in the diet indicated by plasma CEFA composition is linked to adiposity and insulin action. They also suggest that in postmenopausal women, HRT may increase the synthesis of 20:4 n-6, which is the precursor for eicosanoids with important cardiovascular functions.

Open access

Lesley A Hill, Dimitra A Vassiliadi, Ioanna Dimopoulou, Anna J Anderson, Luke D Boyle, Alixe H M Kilgour, Roland H Stimson, Yoan Machado, Christopher M Overall, Brian R Walker, John G Lewis and Geoffrey L Hammond

Corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) transports glucocorticoids in blood and is a serine protease inhibitor family member. Human CBG has a reactive center loop (RCL) which, when cleaved by neutrophil elastase (NE), disrupts its steroid-binding activity. Measurements of CBG levels are typically based on steroid-binding capacity or immunoassays. Discrepancies in ELISAs using monoclonal antibodies that discriminate between intact vs RCL-cleaved CBG have been interpreted as evidence that CBG with a cleaved RCL and low affinity for cortisol exists in the circulation. We examined the biochemical properties of plasma CBG in samples with discordant ELISA measurements and sought to identify RCL-cleaved CBG in human blood samples. Plasma CBG-binding capacity and ELISA values were consistent in arterial and venous blood draining skeletal muscle, liver and brain, as well as from a tissue (adipose) expected to contain activated neutrophils in obese individuals. Moreover, RCL-cleaved CBG was undetectable in plasma from critically ill patients, irrespective of whether their ELISA measurements were concordant or discordant. We found no evidence of RCL-cleaved CBG in plasma using a heat-dependent polymerization assay, and CBG that resists immunoprecipitation with a monoclonal antibody designed to specifically recognize an intact RCL, bound steroids with a high affinity. In addition, mass spectrometry confirmed the absence of NE-cleaved CBG in plasma in which ELISA values were highly discordant. Human CBG with a NE-cleaved RCL and low affinity for steroids is absent in blood samples, and CBG ELISA discrepancies likely reflect structural differences that alter epitopes recognized by specific monoclonal antibodies.