To better characterize the somatotropic axis in HIV-infected children the circadian rhythm of growth hormone (GH), and basal and stimulated (by an insulin-like growth factor I [IGF-I] generation test) plasma levels of IGF-I and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3), were evaluated in 16 children (9 boys and 7 girls; age range, 7-11 years) with HIV infection. All patients were free from active opportunistic infection or liver disease at the time of the study. Sixteen age- and sex-matched healthy children (10 boys and 6 girls; age range, 7-11 years) served as control subjects. GH rhythmometric data were analyzed by single and population mean cosinor analysis. As regards the IGF-I generation test, biosynthetic human GH (hGH, 0.1 IU/kg, 0.033 mg/kg) was administered subcutaneously for 4 days and blood samples were taken from fasting subjects at baseline and on the morning after the last GH injection for measurement of IGF-I and IGFBP-3. Plasma GH levels fell within normal limits in the HIV-seropositive patients and were similar to those of healthy children (1.31 ± 1.18 vs. 1.57 ± 1.16 μg/liter, respectively; mean ± SD). The population mean cosinor analysis shows that the GH circadian rhythm reached statistical significance both in the HIV-seropositive children and in the control group. Despite this, the IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels were significantly lower in HIV-infected children than in the control group (75.6 ± 57.2 vs. 233.3 ± 52.5 ng/ml, p <0.001 and 2.09 ± 0.17 vs. 3.89 ± 0.24 mg/liter, p <0.01, respectively; mean ± SD); moreover, the response of IGF-I and IGFBP-3 to the IGF-I generation test was significantly lower in HIV-infected children than in the control group (86.3 ± 55.8 vs. 257.5 ± 53.4 ng/ml,p <0.001 and 3.14 ± 0.43 mg/liter, p ± 0.01, respectively; mean ± SD). It appears that circadian GH secretion is normal in children with HIV infection, but the response to exogenous GH with regard to IGF-I and IGFBP-3 production is impaired, indicating a degree of GH insensitivity in such children.
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