Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of GnRH agonists: clinical implications in pediatrics

J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Jul;13 Suppl 1:723-37. doi: 10.1515/jpem.2000.13.s1.723.


Since 1981, GnRH agonist administration has been the treatment of choice for central precocious puberty. Continuous administration of the agonist, instead of permanently stimulating gonadotropin secretion, deeply suppresses LH and FSH levels and induces a marked inhibition of gonadal activity and regression of clinical symptoms. This inhibitory effect is due both to specific kinetic parameters relative to natural GnRH, and to marked alterations of the biosynthetic pathways of gonadotropin subunits. The half disappearance time of infused agonists is 3-10 fold that of natural GnRH. This means that the residence time of GnRH agonists is significantly longer than that of GnRH. The resistance of agonist to enzymatic degradation, mainly due to the substitution of a hydrophobic D-amino acid for glycine 6, is one of the factors involved in the increased availability of GnRH superagonists. The paradoxical effects of GnRH superagonists are still incompletely understood. In children long-term treated with depot formulations of triptorelin or leuprorelin, alpha-subunit secretion is markedly increased, and remains sensitive to exogenous GnRH, which demonstrates that the gonadotrophs are not totally desensitized. Despite the sustained stimulation of a-subunit secretion, no deleterious side effects, either during therapy or during post-therapy follow-up, have been reported in children treated with GnRH agonists. It should be noted that alpha-subunit responsiveness to exogenous GnRH decreases progressively after several years of treatment, although it is never completely abolished. On the other hand, LH beta-subunit secretion is suppressed as evidenced by radioimmunoassay of LH beta-subunit in serum chromatographic fractions from children treated with triptorelin. This differential pattern of secretion parallels that of mRNA levels in rat pituitary after in vivo exposure to triptorelin. Both pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic data can help diagnose the situations of resistance or escape. The lack of clinical effect of GnRH in the treatment of precocious puberty can be due to true resistance, or to an inappropriate injection schedule, or to abnormal metabolism. Measurement of serum alpha-subunit level, and, if needed, of serum agonist level, generally provides the answer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / agonists*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Protein Isoforms / blood
  • Puberty, Precocious / drug therapy


  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Luteinizing Hormone