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Radioimmunoassay of cortisone in serum, urine, and saliva to assess the status of the cortisol-cortisone shuttle.

In humans, cortisone (E) derives mainly from the oxidation of the 11-hydroxyl function of cortisol (F) into 11ketone by 11[beta]-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11-HSD2). [8] 11-HSD-2 is located in mineralocorticoid target tissues, principally kidney, colon [1], and parotid gland [2, 3]. The kidney is the major site of the conversion of F to E [4]. In vivo, 11-HSD-2 confers the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) with specificity for circulating aldosterone in preference to far more abundant F and corticosterone (B). In vitro F and B bind to the MR with affinity equal to that of aldosterone [5], whereas in vivo, 11-HSD-2 transforms F and B (but not aldosterone) into their respective metabolites E and dehydrocorticosterone, which have much less affinity for the MR.

Inversely, conversion of E to F takes place mainly in the liver [6], under the action of 11-HSD-1. This enzyme probably regulates access of glucocorticoids to their receptors [7].

In the adult, plasma F exceeds E 10-fold, whereas in the fetus, in which 11-HSD-2 is present in many tissues [3], the E concentration is threefold higher than that of F (11-HSD-2 is also abundant in the placenta [8,91). In the fetus, 11-HSD-2 is thought to prevent the deleterious effects of high F concentrations and to help adrenal development [3]. Patients with mutations in the 11-HSD-2 gene X10-14] have been reported to have a severe and sometimes fatal X15-17] hypertensive syndrome called apparent mineralocorticoid excess type 1 (AME-1) X18] and to have a low birth weight X19]. Thus, the F-E shuttle appears to be implicated in fetal development and arterial hypertension. Methods that aim to evaluate its status may be clinically relevant.

Ulick et al. used gas chromatography to establish a diagnosis of AME on the basis of urinary assays of the tetrahydrometabolites of F (THF and aTHF) and E (THE) [18]. While useful, this method is lengthy and timeconsuming and the THF + aTHF/THE ratio obtained reflects not only the altered activities of 11-HSD-2, but also those of the 5a--and 5(3-reductases encountered in AME-1 [20].

We describe a new, sensitive, specific, and simple RIA for E that, when used in combination with a F RIA, provides an accurate and unambiguous assessment of F/E equilibrium.

After validating the new E RIA, we studied variations in basal and post-Cosyntropin {Synacthen[R] [[alpha]-1-24 corticotropin (ACTH)]} and dexamethasone (DXM) concentrations of E and F over 24 h in simultaneous samples of serum, saliva, and urine.

We also evaluated the clinical applications of this new E assay in Cushing syndrome and in chronic renal insufficiency (CRI), as well as its diagnostic potential in AME.

Materials and Methods

All investigations conformed with the ethical standards laid down by the Helsinki declaration (1975) as revised at Tokyo (1983).

Healthy volunteers. Fifty healthy Caucasian nonsmoking volunteers (27 women and 23 men) ranging in age from 21 to 46 years (mean 28) taking no medication or contraceptives and not eating licorice were included in the study to establish normal values. Thirty-one of them (17 women and 14 men) participated in a circadian study. Sixteen underwent dynamic testing with short-acting Synacthen (Novartis, Rueil-Malmaison, France) (0.25 mg intramuscularly), five with long-acting Synacthen (1 mg), and three were subjected to standard DXM suppression tests (3 mg X 5 days).

Patients. We also studied a selected population of patients in university teaching hospital endocrinology and nephrology services in the Paris area. Two of the patients had primary adrenal insufficiency (Addison disease), two had secondary adrenal insufficiency (hypopituitarism),10 had adrenal adenoma, two had Cushing disease, five had ectopic ACTH secretion, 10 were hypertensive patients with CRI, and two were cases of 11[beta]-OH steroid dehydrogenase deficiency (AME-1).

Samples. For the circadian study, in addition to 24-h urines, saliva and serum samples were collected at 8, 12, 16, and 20 h, and at 0 and 4 h the next day. Urine samples were also obtained at approximately the same times from 20 of the healthy subjects. Aliquots were stored at -20 [degrees]C until assay. We tested the sera and saliva of the CRI patients at 8 h, before they began dialysis. A neutral (flavorless) chewing-gum was chewed by both healthy subjects and patients, who had nothing by mouth for at least 1 h before obtaining 8-mL saliva samples from them.

Reagents. Steroids were purchased from Sigma (SaintQuentin-Fallavier, France) and Steraloids (Wilton, NH), and tritiated F 2.40 TBq/mmol from Amersham (Les [U.sub.1]is, France). Solvents were of analytical or HPLC grade (Merck, Nogent/Marne, France). Phosphate gelatin buffer (PGB) was prepared from 0.04 mol/L phosphate buffer, pH 7.4, + 1 g/L gelatin. BCS scintillation liquid was purchased from Amersham and RPN140 antirabbit scintillation proximity assay reagent (SPA) from Amersham.

[sup.125]I-labeled ACTH IRMA kit. A Nichols Allegro HS-ACTH kit (ref. CA2194) purchased from Mallinckrodt-Diagnostica-France (Evry, France) was used to assay ACTH.

[sup.125]I-labeled aldosterone RIA kit. Aldosterone was assayed with DPC Coat-a-count[degrees] kit (TKAL20) obtained from SAPB Hoechst Behring (Rueil-Malmaison, France).

Angiotensin I, RIA 1251 kit. RENCTK (P2721) bought from Sorin-Biomedica (Antony, France) was used for plasma renin activity assay.

[sup.125]I-labeled F RIA kit. An Incstar kit (ref. CA1549) obtained from Sorin-Biomedica was used for F determination, after extraction and Celite chromatography separation (see below).

Preparation of [1,2-[sup.3]H]E. Prednisone (10 mg) in ethanol (3 mL) solution was reduced by tritium gas with tristriphenylphosphine rhodium chloride (Wilkinson catalyst) (20 mg) under constant stirring at ambient temperature and pressure for 18 h. Separation of prednisone and E was carried out by HPLC and a Zorbax C18 column with a mobile phase consisting of methanol:water (60:40 by vol) at a flow rate of 2 mL/min. The specific activity of tritiated E was found to be 1.04 TBq/mmol (28 Ci/mmol).

Preparation of the cortisone-3-(O-carboxymethyl) oxime hapten (cortisone-3-CMO). To a cooled (0-5 [degrees]C) solution of E (0.180 g, 0.5 mmol) in 20 mL of methanol, anhydrous pyrrolidine (0.071 g, 1 mmol) in 20 mL of methanol was added. After stirring for 5 min, the same quantity of pyrrolidine was added, followed by O-(carboxymethyl) hydroxylamine hemihydrochloride (0.055 g, 0.5 mmol). The mixture was brought to and kept at 50 [degrees]C for 5 min, then cooled to room temperature. The methanol was evaporated under vacuum and the residue redissolved in 20 mL of distilled water. This aqueous solution was adjusted to pH 2 with HCl and extracted with methylene chloride (3 X 20 mL). The combined organic extracts were washed with water (1 X 10 mL), then dried over sodium sulfate and concentrated to dryness, yielding 0.190 g (86%) of cortisone-3-CMO. The product was a mixture of two geometric isomers: E (57%) and Z (43%) (Mp = 86-91 [degrees]C),1H-NMR (CDC13, TMS, Bruker 270 MHz): 0.63 (s, 18-[CH.sub.3]); 1.28 (s, 19-[CH.sub.3]); 4.21 and 4.61 (dd, Jgem = 19 Hz, J21H-OH = 4 Hz, 21-CHICH); 4.60 (s, [CH.sub.2]CO); 5.80 (s, 4-H, E-isomer); 6.50 (s, 4-H, Z-isomer).

Preparation of the cortisone-3-CMO/bovine serum albumin (BSA) immunogen. BSA was coupled to cortisone-3-CMO with the mixed anhydride method described by Erlanger et al. [21].

Preparation of anti-E antibodies. Three New Zealand White male rabbits were immunized according to the method of Vaitukaitis et al. [22].

Preparation of [sup.125]I-labeled E. The coupling of histamine to cortisone-3-CMO, radioactive labeling with 1251 by the chloramine-T method of Greenwood and Hunter, modified, and purification of radiolabeled E by HPLC were carried out as previously described [23]. The specific activity of iodinated E was found to be 25 TBq/mmol (450 mci/mmol).

Celite and columns. Celite obtained from Touzard et Matignon (Vitry/Seine, France) was washed in cyclohexane and heated for 16 to 18 h at 800 [degrees]C, then kept dry at 100 [degrees]C until use. Five mL x 5 mm (i.d.) Kimble pipettes obtained from STP (Paris, France) were siliconized and stoppered at the bottom with a glass bead.

Measuring instruments. The following measuring instruments and equipment were used: a Wallac 1409 beta-ray counter (Pharmacia-LKB, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France), a model 400 HPLC solvent delivery system (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA), and a Zorbax ODS HPLC column, 5 [micro], 250 X 9.4 mm from Interchim (Montlucon, France).

RIA of F and E. These assays were carried out after extraction and Celite chromatography [241, with slight changes. Two thousand cpm each of [[sup.3]H]F and [[sup.3]H]E in PGB (50 [micro]L) were added to the serum samples (0.5 mL), as well as to the saliva (2 mL) and urine (0.5 mL) samples, both of which had been supplemented with 0.5 mL of steroid-free serum. Two milliliters of dichloromethane was added, the samples vortex-mixed for 60 s, and then centrifuged for 10 min at 25008. The aqueous phase was decanted and the organic phase first evaporated, then redissolved in 1.5 mL of isooctane + 20 mL/L dichloromethane. The extract obtained was introduced into the top of a 5 mL x 5 mm (i.d.) pipette packed with 0.75 g of Celite/ethylene glycol (1 8/0.5 mL) to a depth of 6 cm and eluted under positive air pressure. The column was flushed first with 5 mL of 35:65, then with 5 mL of 50:50 dichloromethane:isooctane. One 5-mL faction of 80:20 dichloromethaneisooctane (E) and one 5-mL fraction of 60:40 ethyl acetate:isooctane (F) were collected. The eluates were evaporated in an air current and the eluted steroids redissolved in 1 mL of PGB. One-hundred microliters were counted in 4 mL of scintillation liquid for 300 s to estimate recovery. F RIA was carried out in duplicate in various aliquot volumes: 300 [micro]L for saliva, 100 [micro]L for urine, and 30 [micro]L for serum, to each of which 10 [micro]L of zero calibrator was added, with the Incstar kit. E RIA was also carried out in duplicate on 100 [micro]L (saliva and serum) and 40 FxL (urine). Calibrators consisted of duplicates containing 0, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 2000 pg of steroid/tube, in 100 [micro]L of PGB solution. To these samples were added 100 [micro]L of [sup.125]I-labeled E (10 000 cpm), 100 [micro]L of rabbit anti-E antibody, and 100 [micro]L of antirabbit SPA reagent [251. The samples were vortex-mixed, then incubated at room temperature for 15 to 20 h under rotating agitation (2000 rpm) before being counted for 60 s with a (3-ray counter. Calibration curves were plotted by using RIAcalc Sofware (Pharmacia LKB, Bromma, Sweden) and smooth-spline function fitting. We also performed this same E assay using [[sup.3]H]E to compare the sensitivity obtained with the tritiated and the iodinated tracers. Direct RIAs of F and E (without extraction and chromatography) were also carried out in serum, saliva, and urine and the results of these analyses compared with those obtained after extraction and Celite chromatography. Statistics. The results of the F and E concentrations obtained by the two methods were compared with the Wilcoxon test. Comparisons between group mean values were carried out with Student's t-test or the MannWhitney U-test. Variations in F and E and in the F/E ratio over a 24-h period, as well as before and after Synacthen or DXM administration, were evaluated by ANOVA for repeated measurements. P values >0.05 were considered nonsignificant.

Results

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ANTI-E ANTIBODY

Antibody titers. Immunoserum dilutions that bound 50% of the iodinated tracer increased from 0.2 X [10.sup.-2] during the third month to 1 X [10.sup.-6] during the 14th month and remained between [10.sup.-6] and 0.2 X [10.sup.-6] for the following year in all three immunized rabbits. To date, we have only used immunoserum #3101 in a final PGB dilution of 1:160 000.

Affinity constant. The resulting affinity constant, calculated according to Scatchard, was K = 2.33 X [10.sup.-9] L [mol.sup.-1]. Specificity (Table 1). Anti-E antiserum cross-reactions corresponding to 50% displacement of the iodinated tracer were determined according to Abraham [26] and with SPA. Antiserum #3101 was much more highly specific for E than for F, with only 0.42% cross-reactivity. Most of the interference was from the following compounds: prednisone (52%), 5[alpha]-THE (9.75%), 6[beta]-OH-cortisone (0.71%), 11-deoxycortisol (0.70%), 5(3-THE (0.53%), and prednisolone (0.46%).

ASSAY RELIABILITY

Separation of F and E by Celite chromatography. Less than 3% of each steroid eluate was found in the other fraction, resulting in negligible errors (<1% in the worst case, which was a serum E assay in which the F concentration was 10--to 20-fold that of E). In a preliminary study, we compared the direct F and E assays with the new assay, which includes extraction and Celite chromatography steps. We obtained significantly higher concentrations of F and E with the direct assays (Wilcoxon test, P <0.001). For serum (n = 28), saliva (n = 20), and urine (n = 39), they were respectively 1.20-,1.6-, and 1.5-fold higher for F and 1.2-, 1.4-, and 1.8-fold higher for E. Therefore we decided to carry out the assays after extraction and Celite chromatography steps.

Recovery of tritiated markers. The recovery rates after extraction and chromatography for F were (mean [+ or -] SD, n = 28): 70.1 [+ or -] 9.1, 64.5 [+ or -] 4.2, and 65.8 [+ or -] 9.3 respectively for serum, urine, and saliva; for E they were 75.7 [+ or -] 10.5, 68.4[+ or -]6.5,and63.2[+ or -]7.2.

Blank values. Blank assay values were found to be <30 pg/tube for F and <4 pg/tube for E.

Accuracy. Two serum, two urine, and two saliva samples were supplemented with known quantities of F and E to the following concentrations (nmol/L): Sl: F = 310, E 72; [S.sub.2]: F = 560, E = 165; [U.sub.1]: F = 22, E = 72; [U.sub.2]: F = 300, E = 360; [Sa.sub.1]: F = 10, E = 20; [Sa.sub.2]: F = 40, E = 80, and assayed five times. The recovery rates were respectively (mean [+ or -]SD):S1:F =91[+ or -]6.4,E =86[+ or -]6.5%;[S.sub.2]:F =93[+ or -] 6.3,E =97[+ or -]5.7%; U1:F =110[+ or -]7.1,E =104[+ or -]5.6%; [U.sub.2]: F =93[+ or -]6.1,E = 95[+ or -]6.1%;[Sa.sub.1]:F = 98[+ or -]6.2,E = 99[+ or -] 7.3%; [Sa.sub.2]: F = 101 [+ or -] 7.5, E = 94 [+ or -] 5.9%. One serum, one urine, and one saliva with high concentrations of F and E ([S.sub.3]: F = 1186, E = 266; U3: F = 728, E = 794; [Sa.sub.3]: F = 43, E = 78 nmol/L) were progressively diluted (2--to 10-fold) with steroid-free serum and water (respectively) and assayed in triplicate. Mean results ranged from 89% to 112% of the expected values in serum, 92% to [10.sup.-9]% in urine, and 94% to 108% in saliva.

Reproducibility. Intra--(n = 10) and interassay reproducibility (n = 20) were respectively: Sl: 6.6%, 10.3%; [S.sub.2]: 7.8%, 10.4%; [U.sub.1]: 6.2%,11.8%; [U.sub.2]:4.7%, 7.9%; [Sa.sub.1]: 8.2%,10.8; [Sa.sub.2]: 6.4%, 8.8% for F and Sl: 8.5%, 11.6%; [S.sub.2]: 7.7%, 11%; [U.sub.1]: 5.7%, 11%; [U.sub.2]: 7.0%, 10.2%; [Sa.sub.1]: 5.9%, 8.1%; [Sa.sub.2]: 5.3%, 6.7% for E.

Sensitivity. For Incstar F RIA, the least detectable dose (zero + 3SD) was 38 pg/tube, corresponding to the usual lower limit of F detection (loss-corrected) of 55 pg/mL (0.15 nmol/L) in saliva, 2.5 ng/mL (7 nmol/L) in serum, and 0.7 ng/mL (2 nmol/L) in urine. For E RIA, the least detectable dose was 4.5 pg/tube, corresponding to a pratical E detection limit of 21 pg/mL (0.06 nmol/L) in saliva, 90 pg/mL (0.25 nmol/L) in serum, and 210 pg/mL (0.58 nmol/L) in urine. When the sensitivity of the 1251 labeled E RIA was compared with the same RIA carried out with [[sup.3]H]E, it was found to be lower (4.5 [+ or -] 1.6 vs 10 [+ or -] 2.3 pg/tube, P <0.001, n = 6).

NORMAL RESULTS IN HEALTHY SUBJECTS

Normal values and circadian fluctuations. Usual values (n 50) (Table 2, upper part): Whereas in our healthy adult subjects the serum E concentration was found to be around one-tenth the F concentration, its concentrations in saliva and urine were twice those of F. At 0800, there was a positive correlation between F/E and F [F/E 0.057F (nmol/L) + 0.248; x = 0.610; P = 0.003] and a negative correlation between F/E and E [F/E = -0.437E (nmol/L) + 18.239; r = 0.688; P = 0.0001], but no significant correlation between E and F (r = 0.063; P = 0.0921).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Circadian variations (Figs. 1 and 2, Table 3) in the serum E concentrations among our healthy subjects were seen to parallel those classically described for F; however, their individual E concentrations were practically identical at 0800 and noon. Circadian variations were also found in their saliva and urine. The highest E concentrations were observed in these subjects' serum and saliva at 0800 and the lowest at midnight. In urine this occured at noon and at 0400. The F/E ratio fluctuated significantly over the course of the day (Fig. 2 and Table 3) (ANOVA P <0.001 for serum and saliva, P = 0.045 for urine). In serum and saliva, the highest F/E ratio was found at 0800 and in urine at 1600 (P <0.001). This ratio was significantly lower for urine during the day (0800-1600) than at night (2000-0400) (P = 0.0042).

Dynamic tests (Table 4). Synacthen stimulation tests: While a quite classically significant increase in the serum F concentration was observed in our healthy subjects 1 h after injection of short-acting Synacthen, a significant decrease in E was found. In contrast, serum E was found to be increased 4 h after administration of long-acting Synacthen. However, both these stimulation tests resulted in a significant increase in the F/E ratio (P <0.001).

DXM suppression test: Serum F and E significantly decreased (P <0.001) in our healthy subjects during the DXM suppression test. However, the decrease in F was greater than that of E, resulting in a nonsignificant decrease in the F/E ratio.

PATHOLOGICAL RESULTS IN PATIENTS

Adrenal diseases (Table 2). Primary adrenal insufficiency: The two Addisonians had nearly indetectable serum F ([approximately equal to]12 nmol/L) and E (<2 nmol/L) that failed to respond to short-acting Synacthen infusion.

Secondary adrenal insufficiency: The two hypopituitary patients had depressed serum F and E concentrations that responded to short-acting Synacthen stimulation 1 h later. The responses of these two steroids to 1-24 ACTH were parallel, resulting in a constant F/E ratio.

Cushing syndrome: (a) Adrenal adenoma (10 cases). Both serum F and E concentrations were high and failed to increase after ACTH in the two patients who underwent the short-acting Synacthen test. Nonetheless in these two patients, as well as in the eight others who did not undergo the Synacthen test, serum F/E ratios were normal. However, all adrenal adenoma patients were found to have abnormally high urinary F/E ratios (in the 1.1 to 2.0 range). (b) Cushing disease (two cases). The explosive increase in serum F following short-acting Synacthen was accompanied by a smaller increase in serum E, and the increase in their serum F/E ratio was similar to that observed in healthy subjects (2.78 [+ or -] 0.91). However, their urinary F/E ratios were higher than those found in healthy subjects. (c) Ectopic ACTH secretion (five cases).

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Excessively high serum F concentrations were associated in these patients with a much lower excess of serum E, and consequently with a greatly increased F/E ratio in both serum and urine (P <0.001). (d) OP'DDD therapy. The return of serum F to normal concentrations was accompanied by a return to normal E concentrations and to a normal F/E ratio.

CRI patients (10 patients) (Table 2). All 10 patients had been on hemodialysis (4 h, 3 times a week) for more than a year and all were hypertensive (mean [+ or -] SD, 141.7 [+ or -] 10.9/ 86.2 [+ or -] 9.5 mmHg). Hypertension was not the cause of their nephropathy, but occurred secondarily; all had normal liver function. Their serum F was slightly reduced (386 vs 475 nmol/L for the controls, P = 0.04), but E was dramatically reduced (18.4 vs 51.4 nmol/L, P = 0.0001), and the F/E ratio frankly increased compared with controls (23.5 vs 9.8, P = 0.0001), but less increased than in 11-HSD-2 deficiency (23.5 vs 40.5, P = 0.03). [Sa.sub.1]iva F was normal (9.9 vs 9.3 for the controls) and E slightly but not significantly increased (25.1 vs 17.9, P = 0.054). Nevertheless, the F/E ratio was frankly reduced (0.38 vs 0.50, P = 0.0075).

11[beta]-OH-Steroid dehydrogenase-2 deficiency (two cases). Two young brothers (A and JC, respectively 21/z and 6 years of age) who had high blood pressure, hypokalemia, undetectable plasma aldosterone (<14 pmol/L), and undetectable plasma renin activity (PRA <0.05 nmol/L s) [271 presented low normal concentrations of serum F associated with very low concentrations of E and an F/E ratio three to five times the mean normal ratio. Urinary free F was normal and free urinary E depressed below the lower limit of the normal range with, as in plasma, an increased F/E ratio. The two brothers were successfully treated with DXM alone (1 mg X 10 days), resulting in transient normalization of aldosterone and PRA and correction of arterial hypertension. JC has since ceased to follow his therapeutic regimen, but A remains under combined DXM (0.5 mg/day) + Nifedipine (20 mg X 2/day) treatment. Since he has been under DXM treatment, A's serum and urine F and E concentrations have decreased. However, in spite of the clinical effectiveness of his therapy, the F/E ratios in these two media remain unchanged, which accords with the absence of decrease in the ratio of the hydrogenated metabolites of F and E (THF + aTHF/THE) previously described [27]. Moreover, A's PRA and aldosterone have stabilized at low concentrations [upright PRA 0.048 nmol/L (normal range 0.531.79), aldosterone <28 pmol/L (normal range 196-826)] (unpublished data). In addition, A's saliva F/E ratio before and during DXM treatment, as well as JC's before DXM treatment, were at the upper limit of normal values.

Discussion

E RIA

Existing E assay methods include HPLC [28], double isotope derivative assay [29,30], protein binding assay [29,31], and RIA with tritiated E [4,32-341 following a separation step with paper [29-3], 33], thin-layer [29, 32], reversed-phase [4,28], or Sephadex LH 20 [32] chromatography. Our method includes a Celite chromatography purification step followed by a sensitive (12.5 fmol/tube), specific, and simple E RIA involving [sup.125]I-labeled E, which, after y emission, emits Auger electrons, well-suited for SPA. The use of SPA [35] has greatly improved RIA in general. This new E RIA + SPA assay is carried out in a homogeneous (or pseudohomogenous) phase and does not require time-consuming and laborious methods for separating the bound and free fractions, such as the use of charcoal--dextran or precipitation with a second antibody. The imperfect separation by Celite chromatography of prednisone from E and of prednisolone and methylprednisolone from F requires 24-h abstention from these therapeutic agents in patients who are taking them, to obtain true E and F results (data not shown).

PHYSIOLOGICAL VARIATIONS IN F AND E

CONCENTRATIONS

The usual values of F and E that we found accord well with previously published results for serum [4, 31, 32], saliva [29, 33], and urine [28, 36]. E varies in these three media over the course of the day, with timing similar to those for F and ACTH. One previous study [6] found no significant variation in the serum E concentration (probably because it included only a small number of healthy subjects, n = 7), but other authors have reported cyclic variations of E in serum [32] and saliva [29], which agrees with our results.

In our fractionated urine samples, maximum and minimum E concentrations occur respectively at noon and 0400, slightly later than in serum and saliva (respectively at 0800 and midnight), reflecting the additional time it takes for urine to be produced and stored. E concentrations in saliva and urine are higher than those of F because of the oxidase activity of 11-HSD-2 (present in parotid gland and kidney) [2,3]. The F/E fluctuation in serum is slightly attenuated compared with those encountered in saliva and urine, probably because serum reflects the antagonistic oxidation of F to E (by NAD-dependent 11-HSD-2 in kidney) and the reduction of E to F (by NADP-dependent 11-HSD-1 isoenzyme in liver).

CUSHING SYNDROME

Only our ectopic ACTH patients had increased serum F/E ratios, not those with Cushing disease or the adrenal adenoma patients, as previously found by Walker et al. [6]. In contrast, we found that all Cushing syndrome patients had increased urinary F/E ratios, which corroborates previous results for the THF+aTHF/THE ratio found by Ulick et al. [37] and more recently by Stewart et al. [38].

ROLE OF ACTH

At present, the interaction between ACTH and 11-HSD-2 is still in dispute, some authors arguing in favor of an inhibitory effect of ACTH on 11-HSD-2 activity, others against. As Walker et al. [6] have previously shown, although they did not find any significant variations in plasma E, we observed that circadian fluctuations in E and F in both serum and saliva displayed an increased F/E ratio at 0800, when ACTH is maximum. Katz and Shannon [29] reported that 2 h after administration of 40 IU of ACTH there was an increase in the F/E ratio in parotid fluid, as we found in serum after short--and long-acting Synacthen stimulation. Komel [39] also demonstrated that ACTH prolongs the half-life of F and shortens the half-life of E and found an increased F/E ratio in urine [40]. All this suggests a possible inhibitory effect of ACTH on 11-HSD-2, as first proposed by Walker et al. [6].

In contrast, Ulick et al. [37] explained the high urinary F/E ratio encountered in Cushing syndromes (that we also observed) as being due to an overload of the capacity of 11-HSD-2 to oxidize F to E in these hypercortisolic patients. Such overload has been demonstrated in vitro by Diederich et al. [41]. Our observation of the absence of increase in the F/E ratio after ACTH in patients with secondary adrenal insufficiency also argues against the inhibitory effect of ACTH on 11-HSD-2 activity, but in hypocortisolic patients.

A comprehensive explanation would also take into account the retroinhibition of 11-HSD-2 activity by increased serum E that Rusvai and Fejs-Toth [42] and Stewart et al. [3] have demonstrated in vitro.

At this time, no single hypothesis can explain all the observations reported. Some combination of the three phenomena might explain (for example) the data we observed in the sera of the healthy subjects. Progressive 11-HSD-2 overload could account for the positive correlation between the F/E ratio and the F concentration, whereas retroinhibition of 11-HSD-2 by E might play a role in the negative correlation between F/E and E. Finally, ACTH inhibition of 11-HSD-2 could explain these two simultaneous correlations.

CRI PATIENTS ON HEMODIALYSIS

Whitworth et al. [41 found plasma creatinine and E to be inversely correlated in renal disease, due to progressive destruction of kidney tissue (and 11-HSD-2). Because some functional 11-HSD-2 activity did remain in our CRI patients, their serum E concentrations were less decreased than in AME. In saliva, the increase in E and the low F/E ratio suggest stimulation of parotid 11-HSD-2 in response to the impaired renal 11-HSD-2 activity encountered in CRI patients.

In our study, all the CRI patients were hypertensive and had excessive serum F/E ratios. Vierhapper et al. [431, studying 22 CRI patients not on hemodialysis, found that the ratio of the urinary metabolites (THF/THE) increased from control subjects to normotensive CRI patients to hypertensive CRI patients. This matter deserves further investigation to determine whether 11-HSD-2 deficiency plays a causal role in the onset of hypertension among CRI patients.

AME-I

We used our E assay to study the blood and urine of two young brothers in whom a diagnosis of 11(3-HSD-2 deficiency (AME-1) had been made by capillary chromatography assay of the hydrogenated urinary metabolites of F (THF, aTHF) and of E (THE). According to Ulick et al.'s criteria [18], the ratio of the urinary metabolites (r = THF + aTHF/THE) was very high in both brothers (for JC, r = 42; for A, r = 21; normal range 0.58-2.65) [27]. It is therefore not surprising that their urinary F/E ratios were >4, whereas this ratio is normally <1 (normal range 0.12-0.91). The serum F/E ratio in these two patients also was higher than normal. In addition, during effective DXM treatment of A, the unmodified F/E ratios found in both his plasma and urine corroborated our previously published results on the urine THF/THE ratio [27]. In spite of decreased serum and urine F and E concentrations and low PRA and aldosterone concentrations under long-term DXM therapy, the increased F/E ratios we found suggest that the effectiveness of DXM treatment is potentially mediated partly by the formation of a DXM-MR complex [44]. Indeed, the transcriptional efficiency of this complex is 100-fold lower than those of F-MR and aldosterone-MR [45,46].

The fact that salivary F and E concentrations and the F/E ratio were normal in these two AME-1 patients demonstrates that saliva is not appropriate for carrying out AME-1 diagnosis.

The F-E shuttle has become a subject of investigation in the study of hypertension, both clinically and experimentally. Numerous factors may potentially interfere with the interpretation of results: sample timing; licorice ingestion by the subject [47]; and liver [48], thyroid [49], renal, and adrenal status. These must all be carefully taken into account. The E RIA we describe is simple, selective, sensitive, and well suited for E assay in serum, saliva, and urine for diagnostic purposes, as well as for experimental and therapeutic applications. The easy-to-carry out parallel RIAs of E and F are an alternative or complement to gas chromatography assay of the urinary metabolites of these two steroids.

Using these parallel RIAs, we obtained abundant physiological and pathological data concerning the F-E shuttle. We demonstrated that the circadian variation in the F/E ratio is similar to those of F and E themselves, suggesting that the activity of 11-HSD-2 varies over the course of 24 h.

We showed that the urinary F/E ratio is increased in Cushing syndrome patients, but that only patients with ectopic ACTH secretion had an increased F/E ratio in serum.

We found the serum F/E ratio to be increased in anuric CRI patients under hemodialysis, which we attribute to the destruction of renal 11-HSD-2. In contrast, we found the salivary F/E ratio to be decreased in these patients, which could be due to a compensatory increase in parotid 11-HSD-2 activity.

In addition, in the two cases of AME we studied, the serum and urinary F/E ratios were found to be highly increased. These data suggest that parallel serum and urinary RIA of F and E may be a useful indicator in the detection of AME in patients who consult for hypertension associated with hypoaldosteronemia and hyporeninemia.

Although the data we present appear to be of interest for the study of AME as well as for the differential diagnosis of Cushing syndrome, the small number of patients included did not enable us to determine F/E ratio cutoff values usable as diagnostic criteria. To do so would require additional study and larger numbers of subjects.

We are indebted to D. Cuvillier, F. Quilin, C. Ouabdelkader, V. Vimont, and to the nurses of the nephrology unit of H6pital Foch (Suresnes, France) for providing samples and immunosera, as well as to C. Courtois for typing the manuscript. We thank Professor Gilbert Schaison for providing us with some of the Cushing syndrome samples.

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[8] Nonstandard abbreviations: 11-HSD-2, 11/3-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2; MR, mineralocorticoid receptor; E, cortisone; F, cortisol; B, corticosterone; AME-1, apparent mineralocorticoid excess type 1; THF, 5atetrahydrocortisol; aTHF, 5/3-tetrahydrocortisol; THE, 5a-tetrahydrocortisone; ACTH, corticotropin; DXM, dexamethasone; CRI, chronic renal insufficiency; PGB, phosphate gelatin buffer; SPA, scintillation proximity assay; cortisone-3-CMO, cortisone-3-(O-carboxymethyl) oxime; BSA, bovine serum albumin; and PRA, plasma rerun activity.

GILLES MORINEAU, (1) * AHMED BOUDI, (2) AHMED BARKA (3) MICHELINE GOURMELEN, (4) FRANCOISE DEGEILH, (5) NOAH HARDY, (6) AKRAM AL-HALNAK,(7) HANY SOLIMAN, (1) JAMES P. GOSLING, (6) RENE ,JULIEN, (1) ,JEAN-LOUIS BRERAULT, (1) PHILIPPE BOUDOU, (1) PHILIPPE AUBERT, (3) JEAN-MARIE VILLETTE, (1) ANDRE PRUNA, (3) HERVE GALONS, (2) and JEAN FIET (1,7)

(1) Laboratoire de Biochimie Hormonale, Hopital Saint-Louis, 75010 Paris, France. Laboratoire de

(2) Chimie Organique and

(3) Service de Nephrologie, Hopital Foch, 92151 Suresnes, France.

(4) Laboratoire d'Explorations Endocriniennes, Hopital Trousseau, 75012 Paris, France.

(5) Service des Molecules Marquees, CEA/Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

(6) Department of Biochemistry and National Diagnostics Centre, University College, Galway, Ireland.

(7) Biochimie, Faculte de Pharmacie, 75006 Paris, France.

* Address correspondence to this author at: Laboratoire de Biochimie Hormonale, Hopital Saint-Louis, 1 ave. Claude-Vellefaux, 75475 Paris cedex 10, France. Fax + 33 1 42 49 42 80; e-mail bio.horm.fiet@chu-stiouis.fr. Received December 19, 1996; revised March 13, 1997; accepted April 28, 1997.
Table 1. Cross-reactivities (CR) of anti-E antiserum #3101
and anti-F antiserum of the Incstar F kit.

 Anti-F antiserum
 Anti-E (Insctar kit),
 antiserum, CR % CR

E 100 0.39
5[alpha]-THE 9.75 0.17
5[beta]-THE 0.53 0.02
6[beta]-OH-cortisone 0.71 <0.10
F 0.42 100
5[alpha]-DHF 0.07 9.00
5[beta]-DHF 0.07 2.40
20[alpha]-DHF <0.01 0.21
20[beta]-DHF 0.03 0.42
5[alpha]-THF 0.02 2.70
5[beta]-THF <0.01 0.73
6[beta]-OH-cortisol <0.01 3.30
11-deoxycortisol 0.70 5.75
21-deoxycortisol 0.01 21.20
B 0.04 0.60
11-deoxycorticosterone 0.05 0.18
Aldosterone <0.01 <0.01
Progesterone <0.01 <0.10
17-OH-progesterone 0.05 <0.10
Prednisone 52.00 0.45
Prednisolone 0.46 69.70
Methylprednisolone 0.07 36.00
DXM <0.01 0.07

CR of antiserum #3101 was <0.001% for pregnenolone,
17-OH-pregnenolone, DHEA, and DHEA-S.

Table 2. Variations in serum, saliva, and urine concentrations of
F and E (and in their ratios).

 Serum

 F, nmol/L

 [t.sub.0] t + 1 h (a)

Usual values
Mean-SD 344 [+ or -] 81 705.6 [+ or -] 144.1
 [t.sub.0] (n = 50);
 t + 1 h (n = 16)
Range 135-460 406-1040
Primary adrenal
 insufficiency
MAI (b) 6.9 7.2
FAI 8
Secondary adrenal
 insufficiency
ADE 33 182
MER 36 124
Adrenal adenoma
TUR 1377 1258
ORT 1145 1068
Mean [+ or -] SD 973 [+ or -] 266
 (n=10)
Range 568-1377
Cushing disease
MON 411 4389
LAN 372 3925
Ectopic ACTH
 secretion
BRE 9865
MOR 1574
IMO 786
Mean [+ or -] SD 2959 [+ or -] 3874
 (n=5)
Range 786-9865
Cushing disease
 under OP'DDD
MON 282
Ectopic ACTH
 under OP'DDD
BRE 569
MOR 358
Chronic renal
 insufficiency
Mean-SD 387 [+ or -] 98
 (n=10)
Range 265 -568
11-HSD
 deficiency
GON J-C 215
GON A 193
GON A (c) 146

 Serum

 E, nmol/L

 [t.sub.0] t + 1 h

Usual values
Mean-SD 51.4 [+ or -] 16.7 45.6 [+ or -] 13
 [t.sub.0] (n = 50);
 t + 1 h (n = 16)
Range 14-60 25-75
Primary adrenal
 insufficiency
MAI (b) <2 <2
FAI <2
Secondary adrenal
 insufficiency
ADE 2.8 16
MER 4.7 19
Adrenal adenoma
TUR 163 83
ORT 135 88
Mean [+ or -] SD 125 [+ or -] 50.3
 (n=10)
Range 58.4-184 4.4-13.9
Cushing disease
MON 51 61
LAN 39 55
Ectopic ACTH
 secretion
BRE 127
MOR 85.4
IMO 39
Mean [+ or -] SD 79.7 [+ or -] 34.0
 (n=5)
Range 39.0-127
Cushing disease
 under OP'DDD
MON 39.5
Ectopic ACTH
 under OP'DDD
BRE 62
MOR 69
Chronic renal
 insufficiency
Mean-SD 18.4 [+ or -] 3.6
 (n=10)
Range 11.4 -23.3
11-HSD
 deficiency
GON J-C 6.3
GON A 4
GON A (c) 2.8

 Serum

 F/E

 [t.sub.0] t + 1 h

Usual values
Mean-SD 9.5 [+ or -] 3.5 16.4 [+ or -] 5.0
 [t.sub.0] (n = 50);
 t + 1 h (n = 16)
Range 5.1-16.7 10.2-25.1
Primary adrenal
 insufficiency
MAI (b)
FAI
Secondary adrenal
 insufficiency
ADE 12 11.4
MER 7.6 6.5
Adrenal adenoma
TUR 8.50 15.2
ORT 8.50 12
Mean [+ or -] SD 9.5 [+ or -] 3.1
 (n=10)
Range
Cushing disease
MON 6.4 17.3
LAN 7.6 31.8
Ectopic ACTH
 secretion
BRE 77.9
MOR 18.4
IMO 20.2
Mean [+ or -] SD 30.5 [+ or -] 26.6
 (n=5)
Range 16.4-77.9
Cushing disease
 under OP'DDD
MON 7.1
Ectopic ACTH
 under OP'DDD
BRE 9.2
MOR 5.2
Chronic renal
 insufficiency
Mean-SD 23.5 [+ or -] 3.9
 (n=10)
Range 16.8 -28.3
11-HSD
 deficiency
GON J-C 34
GON A 47
GON A (c) 52

 ACTH, pmol/L

 [t.sub.0]

Usual values
Mean-SD 9.3 [+ or -] 4.0
 [t.sub.0] (n = 50);
 t + 1 h (n = 16)
Range 4.4-18 3.5-17
Primary adrenal
 insufficiency
MAI (b) 49
FAI 28
Secondary adrenal
 insufficiency
ADE 1.1
MER 1.5
Adrenal adenoma
TUR 2.4
ORT 1.8
Mean [+ or -] SD
 (n=10)
Range
Cushing disease
MON 21
LAN 16
Ectopic ACTH
 secretion
BRE 145
MOR 34
IMO 27
Mean [+ or -] SD 84 [+ or -] 62
 (n=5)
Range
Cushing disease
 under OP'DDD
MON
Ectopic ACTH
 under OP'DDD
BRE
MOR
Chronic renal
 insufficiency
Mean-SD 9.9 [+ or -] 5.8
 (n=10)
Range 4.1 -18.5
11-HSD
 deficiency
GON J-C 8.7 8
GON A 8.2
GON A (c) 6.9 2.4

 Saliva

 F, nmol/L E, nmol/L

Usual values
Mean-SD 17.9 [+ or -] 7.6 0.50 [+ or -] 0.19
 [t.sub.0] (n = 50);
 t + 1 h (n = 16)
Range 5.5-35 0.24-1.11
Primary adrenal
 insufficiency
MAI (b)
FAI
Secondary adrenal
 insufficiency
ADE
MER
Adrenal adenoma
TUR
ORT
Mean [+ or -] SD
 (n=10)
Range
Cushing disease
MON
LAN
Ectopic ACTH
 secretion
BRE
MOR
IMO
Mean [+ or -] SD
 (n=5)
Range
Cushing disease
 under OP'DDD
MON
Ectopic ACTH
 under OP'DDD
BRE
MOR
Chronic renal
 insufficiency
Mean-SD 25.1 [+ or -] 10.4 0.38 [+ or -] 0.11
 (n=10)
Range 12.5 -39.9 0.18 -0.53
11-HSD
 deficiency
GON J-C 7.2 1.11
GON A 8.6 0.95
GON A (c) 2.2 1.10

 Urine

 F/E F, nmol/24 h

Usual values
Mean-SD 96.3 [+ or -] 43.6 130 [+ or -] 104
 [t.sub.0] (n = 50);
 t + 1 h (n = 16)
Range 19-205 47-417
Primary adrenal
 insufficiency
MAI (b) 19 67
FAI 11 35
Secondary adrenal
 insufficiency
ADE
MER
Adrenal adenoma
TUR 2309 1705
ORT 1241 775
Mean [+ or -] SD 1199 [+ or -] 801 717 [+ or -] 537
 (n=10)
Range 136-2309 116-1705
Cushing disease
MON 915 821
LAN 543 552
Ectopic ACTH
 secretion
BRE 181436 2662
MOR 3568 490
IMO 1903 607
Mean [+ or -] SD
 (n=5)
Range
Cushing disease
 under OP'DDD
MON 114 206
Ectopic ACTH
 under OP'DDD
BRE
MOR
Chronic renal
 insufficiency
Mean-SD
 (n=10)
Range
11-HSD
 deficiency
GON J-C 223 44
GON A 177 34
GON A (c) 54 8.50

 Urine

 E, nmol/24 h F/E

Usual values
Mean-SD 0.52 [+ or -] 0.29
 [t.sub.0] (n = 50);
 t + 1 h (n = 16)
Range 0.12-0.91
Primary adrenal
 insufficiency
MAI (b) 0.29
FAI 0.31
Secondary adrenal
 insufficiency
ADE
MER
Adrenal adenoma
TUR 1.35
ORT 1.61
Mean [+ or -] SD 1.55 [+ or -] 0.39
 (n=10)
Range 1.11-2.02
Cushing disease
MON 1.11
LAN 0.98
Ectopic ACTH
 secretion
BRE 68.2
MOR 7.14
IMO 3.1
Mean [+ or -] SD
 (n=5)
Range
Cushing disease
 under OP'DDD
MON 0.56
Ectopic ACTH
 under OP'DDD
BRE
MOR
Chronic renal
 insufficiency
Mean-SD
 (n=10)
Range
11-HSD
 deficiency
GON J-C 4.55
GON A 5.26
GON A (c) 6.25

(a) 1 h after ACTH 0.25 mg.

(b) First three letters of patients' family name.

(c) Under effective treatment with DXM and Nifedipine.

Table 3. Circadian variations in serum, saliva, and urinary
F and E (and their ratios) (mean [+ or -] SD).

 Serum (n = 31)
Time of
day F, nmol/L E, nmol/L F/E

400 171 [+ or -] 90.2 29.2 [+ or -] 15.7 7.2 [+ or -] 3.0
800 477 [+ or -] 90.5 51.3 [+ or -] 16 10.1 [+ or -] 3.8
Noon 339 [+ or -] 117.5 51 [+ or -] 17.4 7.0 [+ or -] 2.6
1600 287 [+ or -] 108.4 37.2 [+ or -] 15.2 8.4 [+ or -] 3.7
2000 198 [+ or -] 85.5 34.2 [+ or -] 16.7 6.4 [+ or -] 2.1
Midnight 152 [+ or -] 96.6 24 [+ or -] 14.3 8.2 [+ or -] 3.2

 Saliva (n = 31)
Time of
day F, nmol/L E, nmol/L F/E

400 2.8 [+ or -] 1.1 6.1 [+ or -] 5.0 0.32 [+ or -] 0.12
800 9.1 [+ or -] 4.1 18.2 [+ or -] 7.4 0.48 [+ or -] 0.18
Noon 5.0 [+ or -] 3.0 12.7 [+ or -] 6.6 0.33 [+ or -] 0.11
1600 3.6 [+ or -] 2.2 9.4 [+ or -] 4.4 0.35 [+ or -] 0.14
2000 2.5 [+ or -] 1.1 5.8 [+ or -] 5.2 0.29 [+ or -] 0.14
Midnight 2.8 [+ or -] 1.4 5.0 [+ or -] 4.1 0.40 [+ or -] 0.16

 Urine (n = 20)
Time of
day F, nmol/L E, nmol/L F/E

400 19.3 [+ or -] 14.3 58.6 [+ or -] 31.4 0.33 [+ or -] 0.15
800 80 [+ or -] 61.5 137 [+ or -] 59.9 0.50 [+ or -] 0.23
Noon 104 [+ or -] 93.2 165 [+ or -] 109.8 0.46 [+ or -] 0.36
1600 74.2 [+ or -] 42.2 118 [+ or -] 61 0.59 [+ or -] 0.21
2000 38.6 [+ or -] 36.4 71.7 [+ or -] 29.8 0.37 [+ or -] 0.17
Midnight 37.5 [+ or -] 26.5 65.4 [+ or -] 28.6 0.44 [+ or -] 0.25

Table 4. Effects of ACTH stimulation and DXM suppression on serum
F and E concentrations (nmol/L) in healthy subjects
(mean [+ or -] SD).

 ACTH stimulation (n = 16)

 0.25 mg

 E F F/E

[t.sub.0] 52.1 [+ or -] 22.4 319.8 [+ or -] 152.1 6.4 [+ or -] 2.6
t + 1 h 45.6 [+ or -] 13 705.6 [+ or -] 144.1 16.4 [+ or -] 5.0
t + 4 h
[D.sub.0]
[D.sub.5]

 ACTH stimulation (n = 16)

 1 mg

 E F F/E

[t.sub.0] 41 [+ or -] 7.8 278 [+ or -] 38.6 7.0 [+ or -] 1.7
t + 1 h
t + 4 h 62.9 [+ or -] 12.3 1625 [+ or -] 210 26.4 [+ or -] 4.9
[D.sub.0]
[D.sub.5]

 DXM suppression (n = 5), 3 mg x 5 days

 E F F/E

[t.sub.0]
t + 1 h
t + 4 h
[D.sub.0] 44.8 [+ or -] 9.7 495 [+ or -] 52.5 11.7 [+ or -] 4.0
[D.sub.5] 2.7 [+ or -] 0.5 21.8 [+ or -] 6.5 9.0 [+ or -] 5.0

[D.sub.0], Day of test, before DXM administration (baseline value);
[D.sub.5], morning of the 6th day of test, after 5 days of
DXM administration.
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Title Annotation:Endocrinology and Metabolism
Author:Morineau, Gilles; Boudi, Ahmed; Barka, Ahmed; Gourmelen, Micheline; Degeilh, Francoise; Hardy, Noah;
Publication:Clinical Chemistry
Date:Aug 1, 1997
Words:8833
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