Sequence of pituitary-adrenal cortical hormone responses to low-dose physostigmine administration in young adult women and men
We previously demonstrated greater HPA axis activation in adult men compared to adult women following low-dose administration of the anticholinesterase inhibitor, physostigmine (PHYSO). Because blood sampling was done infrequently following PHYSO, the rise times of AVP, ACTH1-39, and cortisol could not be determined. In the present study, we determined the sequence of hormone increases by frequent blood sampling following PHYSO. Twelve adult women and 12 adult men underwent three test sessions 5-7 days apart: PHYSO, saline control, and repeat PHYSO. As in the earlier study, PHYSO produced no side effects in half the subjects and mild side effects in the other half, with no significant female-male differences. None of the hormone responses was significantly correlated with the presence or absence of side effects. In both women and men, the AVP increase preceded the ACTH1-39 increase, which in turn preceded the cortisol increase. The AVP and ACTH AUCs were significantly positively correlated in both women and men, supporting AVP as an acute stimulus to ACTH secretion. Also as in the earlier study, the AVP response to PHYSO was more than twice as great in men as in women, but the difference was not statistically significant. We therefore analyzed the results of both studies combined (N=26 women and 26 men). The men had a significantly greater AVP response and a trend toward a greater ACTH1-39 response compared to the women. These findings further support the concept of sexual diergism (functional sex difference) in the influence of CNS cholinergic systems on HPA hormone secretion.
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