A pharmacological tool to assess vasopressinergic co-activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis more integrally in healthy volunteers

J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Mar;25(3):361-9. doi: 10.1177/0269881109358205. Epub 2010 Feb 10.


Pharmacological function tests consisting of 100 µg hCRH (corticorelin) and 10 µg dDAVP (desmopressin) mimic endogenous hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation. However, physiological CRH concentrations preclude informative vasopressinergic co-activation (using dDAVP) and independent quantification of both corticotrophinergic (using hCRH) and vasopressinergic (using dDAVP) activation is limited due to administration on separate occasions. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, partial five-way crossover study in healthy males and females (six : six) examined whether (1) concomitant administration of dDAVP and hCRH provides more informative vasopressinergic co-activation than dDAVP alone; and (2) whether the administration of dDAVP followed two hours later by hCRH can quantify both vasopressinergic and corticotrophinergic activation on a single test day. Combining 10 µg dDAVP with 10 µg and 30 µg hCRH caused dose-related ACTH and cortisol release which was larger than with 10 µg dDAVP alone and respectively comparable to and greater than that induced by 100 µg hCRH. Using 10 µg dDAVP alone demonstrated limited ACTH release while the effects of 100 µg hCRH two hours later were three times as large. ACTH and cortisol released by 10 µg dDAVP returned to baseline prior to 100 µg hCRH administration and dDAVP did not influence the response to subsequent hCRH administration. Dose-related vasopressinergic co-activation of the HPA axis was induced by combining 10 µg dDAVP with 10 µg and 30 µg hCRH. Combining 10 µg dDAVP with 10 µg hCRH induced the potentially most informative vasopressinergic co-activation since it is not restricted by ceiling or flooring effects. The hCRH response was not affected by prior dDAVP, allowing for a practical function test examining both HPA activation routes on the same day.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / administration & dosage
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin / administration & dosage
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / drug effects*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Male
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / drug effects*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin