The enhancing effect of pyridostigmine on the GH response to GHRH undergoes an accelerated age-related reduction in Down syndrome

E. Arvat, L. Gianotti, L. Ragusa, M. R. Valetto, M. Cappa, G. Aimaretti, J. Ramunni, S. Grotioli, F. Camanni, E. Ghigo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cholinergic agonists are known to potentiate GHRH-induced GH secretion, probably acting via inhibition of hypothalamic somatostatin release. Their effect is reduced in aging and in patients with Alzheimer's disease. This may be the consequence of age-related cholinergic impairment, which, in turn, could cause somatostatinergic hyperactivity leading to GH hyposecretion. As in Down syndrome (DS) neural alterations have been reported similar to those in aging, including cholinergic impairment, we verified the GH response to GHRH (1 μg/kg i.v. at 0 min) alone or combined with pyridostigmine (PD), a cholinesterase inhibitor (60 and 120 mg, respectively, in children and adults, orally at -60 min) in 15 DS children (13.5 ± 0.6 years) and in 11 DS young adults (24.0 ± 1.2 years). Fifteen normal children (11.9 ± 0.5 years), 15 normal adults (27.3 ± 0.9 years) and 16 normal elderly (76.3 ± 1.5 years) were studied as controls. IGF-I levels showed an age-related reduction both in DS (children vs. adults, mean ± SEM: 354.8 ± 44.9 vs. 204.4 ± 29.4 μg/l, p <0.02) and in controls (normal children vs. normal adults vs. normal elderly: 281.4 ± 36.3 vs. 175.4 ± 11.2 vs. 72.5 ± 6.6 μg/l, p <0.001). The GH response to GHRH in DS children was higher than in DS adults (areas under curve: 1,197.6 ± 241.5 vs. 434.4 ± 83.3 μg/l/h, p <0.01). On the other hand, in normal subjects the GHRH-induced GH rise was similar in children and adults (1,056.2 ± 128.4 vs. 800.8 ± 124.5 μg/l/h) and both were higher than that in elderly subjects (296.0 ± 61.0 μg/l/h, p <0.001). PD enhanced the GH response to GHRH both in DS and in normal subjects (p <0.005). The GH response to PD+GHRH was lower in DS adults than in DS children(l,068.1 ± 145.7 vs. 1,897.4 ± 198.8 μg/l/h, p <0.001) as well as in normal elderly subjects with respect to that in normal children and normal adults (832.3 ± 144.7 vs. 2,172.1 ± 156.1 and 2,347.6 ± 322.4 μg/l/h, respectively, p <0.001). The GH response to GHRH alone or combined with PD in DS adults was lower (p <0.01) than that in normal adults and similar to that in normal elderly subjects. In conclusion, the present data demonstrate that the stimulated GH secretion in DS undergoes an accelerated age-related reduction. They also suggest the existence of a precocious impairment of central cholinergic activity in DS, which, in turn, could cause somatostatinergic hyperactivity and reduced GH secretion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-292
Number of pages5
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • Down syndrome
  • Growth hormone
  • Growth hormone-releasing hormone
  • Pyridostigmine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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