To assess the interaction among androgens, placenta, and the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis we studied effects of androstenedione administered intravascularly to the pregnant monkey on maternal plasma CRH, ACTH, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), cortisol, and estradiol concentrations. Ten monkeys (128 ± 3 days gestation; mean ± SEM) were instrumented under general halothane anesthesia with maternal femoral artery and venous catheters and uterine electromyogram electrodes. At 137-144 days gestation, baseline maternal femoral artery samples for CRH, ACTH, DHEAS, cortisol, and estradiol measurements were taken at 1.5-h intervals for 7 h starting 2 h before darkness. On the following day, a continuous iv androstenedione infusion (0.3 mg/ kg-min at 0.25 ml/h) in 10% intralipid was started at 0930 h in four monkeys; the other six animals received vehicle alone at the same rate starting at the same time. Maternal blood sampling was repeated 1 and 3 days after androstenedione or vehicle administration. Maternal plasma CRH, ACTH, DHEAS, cortisol, and estradiol levels were unaffected by intralipid. In contrast, androstenedione infusion produced a sustained increase in maternal plasma estradiol and a sustained fall in maternal plasma ACTH, but did not affect maternal plasma CRH, DHEAS, or cortisol concentrations. These results provide evidence for negative feedback regulation by androgens at the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in the pregnant monkey. Lack of inhibition of maternal plasma CRH after androstenedione administration supports differential regulation of hypothalamic and placental CRH by androgens.
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