Pirenzepine, a muscarinic antagonist probably acting via stimulation of hypothalamic somatostatin release, abolishes the growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH)-stimulated growth hormone (GH) rise in normal subjects but only blunts it in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN). This finding suggested the existence in AN of an alteration of cholinergic system and/or somatostatinergic tone. To further investigate these mechanisms, in 11 AN women patients (age 18.8 +/- 0.9 years; BMI 13.4 +/- 0.4) we studied the GH response alone (1 microgram/Kg IV as a bolus at 0 min) and combined with pyridostigmine (PD, 120 mg orally, 60 min before GHRH administration), a cholinesterase inhibitor, or arginine (ARG 30 g infused over 30 min starting at 0 min), two compounds probably acting via inhibition of hypothalamic somatostatin (SS) release. The GH response to GHRH preceded by a previous (120 min before) neurohormone administration also was studied. All these tests also were performed in 20 normal age-matched women (age 22.0 +/- 1.8 yrs; BMI20.1 +/- 2.4). Basal serum GH levels were higher in AN patients than in normal volunteers (NV) (10.3 +/- 3.4 versus 2.8 +/- 0.3 microgram/L; p < 0.001), whereas plasma IGF-I levels were lower in AN patients than in NV (43.3 +/- 10.6 versus 172.4 +/- 13.9 micrograms/L; p < 0.00001). In AN patients, GHRH administration induced a GH rise higher, though not significantly, than that in NV [delta area under the curve (AUC) 1173.6 +/- 167.6 versus 834.6 +/- 188.1 micrograms/L/h]. The GH response to the second of two consecutive GHRH boluses was lower (p < 0.01) than that of the first one either in AN patients or in NV (67.6 +/- 27.4 and 53.1 +/- 25.7 micrograms/L/h, respectively).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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