Human adrenal glands secrete vitamin C in response to adrenocorticotrophic hormone

Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jul;86(1):145-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/86.1.145.


Background: When vitamin C intake is from foods, fasting plasma concentrations do not exceed 80 micromol/L. We postulated that such tight control permits a paracrine function of vitamin C.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether paracrine secretion of vitamin C from the adrenal glands occurs.

Design: During diagnostic evaluation of 26 patients with hyperaldosteronism, we administered adrenocorticotrophic hormone intravenously and measured vitamin C and cortisol in adrenal and peripheral veins.

Results: Adrenal vein vitamin C concentrations increased in all cases and reached a peak of 176 +/- 71 micromol/L at 1-4 min, whereas the corresponding peripheral vein vitamin C concentrations were 35 +/- 15 micromol/L (P<0.0001). Mean adrenal vein vitamin C increased from 39 +/- 15 micromol/L at 0 min, rose to 162 +/- 101 micromol/L at 2 min, and returned to 55 +/- 16 micromol/L at 15 min. Adrenal vein vitamin C release preceded the release of adrenal vein cortisol, which increased from 1923 +/- 2806 nmol/L at 0 min to 27 191 +/- 16 161 nmol/L at 15 min (P<0.0001). Peripheral plasma cortisol increased from 250 +/- 119 nmol/L at 0 min to 506 +/- 189 nmol/L at 15 min (P<0.0001).

Conclusions: Adrenocorticotrophic hormone stimulation increases adrenal vein but not peripheral vein vitamin C concentrations. These data are the first in humans showing that hormone-regulated vitamin secretion occurs and that adrenal vitamin C paracrine secretion is part of the stress response. Tight control of peripheral vitamin C concentration is permissive of higher local concentrations that may have paracrine functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism*
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ascorbic Acid / blood
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hydrocortisone / physiology
  • Hyperaldosteronism / blood
  • Hyperaldosteronism / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Hydrocortisone