A method to evaluate dynamics and periodicity of hormone secretion

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Spontaneous hormone secretory dynamics include tonic and pulsatile components and a number of periodic processes. Circadian variations are usually found for melatonin, TSH and GH, with peak secretions at night, and in cortisol secretion, which peaks in the morning. Free thyroxine (FT4) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)1 levels do not always change with circadian rhythmicity or show only minor fluctuations. Fractional variations explore the dynamics of secretion related to time intervals, and the rate of change in serum levels represents a signal for the receptorial system and the target organ. We evaluated time-related variations and change dynamics for melatonin, cortisol, TSH, FT4, GH and IGF1 levels in blood samples obtained every 4 h for 24 h from eleven healthy males, ages 35-53 years (mean±SE 43.6±1.7). Nyctohemeral (i.e., day-night) patterns of hormone secretion levels and the fractional rate of variation between consecutive 4-hourly time-qualified hormone serum levels (calculated as % change from time 1 to time 2) were evaluated for circadian periodicity using a 24 and 12-h cosine model. A circadian rhythm was validated for serum level changes in cortisol with peaks of the 24-h cosine model at 07:48h, and melatonin, TSH and GH, with phases at 01:35h, 23:32h, and 00: 0Oh, respectively. A weak, but significant, 12-h periodicity was found for FT4 serum levels, with minor peaks in the morning (10:00h) and evening (22:00h), and for IGF1, with minor peaks in the morning (07:40h) and evening (19:40h). Circadian rhythmicity was found in the 4-hourly fractional variations with phases of increase or surge at 02:00h for cortisol, 22:29h for melatonin, 05:14h for FT4, and 21: 19h for GH. A significant 12-h periodicity was found for the 4-hourly fractional variations of TSH with two peaks in the morning (decrease or drop at 04:42h) and afternoon (surge at 16:28h), whereas IGF1 fractional variation changes did not show a significant rhythmic pattern. In conclusion, the calculation of the time-qualified fractional rate of variation allows evaluation of the dynamics of secretion and the specification of the timepoint(s) of maximal change of secretion, not only for hormones whose secretion is characterized by a circadian pattern of variation, but also for hormones that show no circadian or only weak ultradian (12 h) variations (i.e., FT4).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-238
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Circadian rhythm
  • Cortisol
  • Fractional variation
  • GH
  • IGF1
  • Melatonin
  • Thyroxine
  • TSH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology
  • Cancer Research


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