Thymulin, zinc and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) activity before and during recombinant growth hormone (rec-GH) therapy in children and adults with GH deficiency

E. Mocchegiani, A. Sartorio, L. Santarelli, S. Ferrero, N. Fabris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Plasma thymulin (active and total) levels, IGF-I and zinc concentrations were evaluated in 9 children and in 8 adults with GH deficiency (GHD) before and after 3-6 months of recombinant-GH treatment. Before therapy, GH deficient children had lower plasma active thymulin levels (1.0 ± 0.3 log.2), not due to a peripheral defect in zinc saturation since plasma zinc levels were within the normal range, and total thymulin levels (1.3 ± 0.3 log2) than in the age matched control group. GH therapy significantly increased active thymulin (3rd month: 3.0 ± 0.2 log.2, 6th month: 4.0 ± 0.2 log.2), total thymulin (3rd month: 3.3 ± 0.3 log2, 6th month: 4.3 + 0.2 log.2) and IGF-I levels (3rd month: 283.3 ± 7.2 μg/L, 6th month: 411.2 ± 44.2 μg/L, vs basal: 144.3 ± 11.5 μg/L); at the 6th month of therapy, thymulin levels (active and total) were comparable to those found in controls. A positive correlation existed between zinc and plasma IGF-I levels (r = 0.66, p 0.05). In adults with GHD, plasma active (1.9 ± 0.3 log.2) and total thymulin levels (3.9 ± 0.1 log.2), significantly lower (p <0.01 and 0.05, respectively) than in controls before treatment, increased after GH therapy (active thymulin, 3rd month: 3.0 ± 0.2 log.2, 6th month: 4.4 ± 0.3 log.2; total thymulin, 3rd month: 3.9 ± 0.3 log.2, 6th month: 4.7 ± 0.2 log.2), being at 6th month of therapy no more different from the values recorded in the age-matched control group. In conclusion, children and adults with GHD have a marked impairment of the thymic endocrine activity, which can be restored by six months of GH treatment. The effects of GH on thymic functions may be mediated by IGF-I, through the modulation of zinc turnover, suggesting the possible existence of an interplay among GH, zinc, IGF-I and thymulin both in children and adults with GHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-637
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1996



  • GH deficiency
  • Growth hormone
  • Insulin-like growth Factor-1
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology

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