Serum FSH bioactivity and inhibin levels in patients with gonadotropin secreting and nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas

S. Borgato, L. Persani, R. Romoli, D. Cortelazzi, A. Spada, P. Beck-Peccoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been reported that serum FSH bioactivity and inhibin levels can be used as markers of the presence of true gonadotropin-secreting pituitary adenoma (Gn-oma). To verify this hypothesis, we have investigated the bioactivity of FSH and serum inhibin α-α and α-βA levels in a series of patients with either Gn-oma or nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma (NFPA). Nine patients with Gn-oma (6 men and 3 women), 21 with NFPA (9 men and 12 women) and 30 normal subjects were included in the study. We studied FSH biological activity (FSH-B) by using Sertoli cell aromatase bioassay (SAB) and α-α and α-βA inhibin levels by two noncompetitive immunometric assays (IEMA). In male patients with Gn-oma, serum immunoreactive FSH (FSH-I) and FSH-B levels ranged from 5.1 to 35.5 U/L and from 8.3 to 48 U/L, respectively, FSH B/I ratio being elevated in 2 (2.5 and 4.1; normal male range: 0.3-1.5), while female patients with Gn-oma had serum FSH-I and FSH-B levels ranging from 43.2 to 162 U/L and from 41.2 to 112.8 U/I, respectively, with a normal FSH B/I ratio. In male patients with NFPA, FSH-I and FSH-B levels ranged from 2.7 to 10.7 U/I and from 2.4 to 11.4 U/1 while in females they ranged from 3.4 to 67.9 and from 4.6 to 60.8 U/I, respectively. FSH B/I ratio was elevated in 1 male (3.3) and normal in the remaining patients with NFPA. Serum α-α inhibin levels were normal or low in patients with Gn-oma and NFPA, while α-βA inhibin concentrations were slightly elevated in 1 of 6 postmenopausal women (0.9; normal range <0.7 U/ml). The present study confirms and extends previous reports indicating that male patients with Gn-oma may secrete FSH molecules with increased bioactivity. However, this abnormality was also observed in one male patient with NFPA. Moreover, the measurement of inhibin levels does not appear to be a reliable in vivo marker of pituitary tumors of gonadotroph origin, as it was normal or low in almost all patients with either Gn-oma or NFPA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-379
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1998


  • FSH bioactivity
  • Inhibin
  • NFPA
  • Pituitary tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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