Proopiomelanocortin-related peptides and methionine enkephalin in human follicular fluid: changes during the menstrual cycle

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1987 Jul;157(1):142-6. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(87)80366-6.


Several studies indicate the presence of different pituitary hormones or neuropeptides in ovarian follicular fluid from various species. Recently our group showed that the ovarian follicular fluid of health women contains two of the endogenous opioid peptides, beta-endorphin and methionine enkephalin, in concentrations that are tenfold to twentyfold higher than in circulating plasma. The presence of immunoreactive beta-lipotropin was also shown. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether adrenocorticotropic hormone, which in pituitary cells is synthesized from proopiomelanocortin such as beta-endorphin and beta-lipotropin, is also present in follicular fluid and the possible changes of proopiomelanocortin-related peptides during the menstrual cycle. Concentrations of beta-endorphin, methionine enkephalin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and beta-lipotropin were measured in 60 healthy menstruating women at different periods of the menstrual cycle (20 during the follicular, 22 in the preovulatory days, and 18 during the luteal phase). Thirteen women participated in an in vitro fertilization program and thus received clomiphene citrate (100 mg/day from the fifth to the ninth day) plus 5000 IU human chorionic gonadotropin before starting the program. All samples were collected at laparoscopy under general anesthesia. In another eight patients fluid was collected from follicular cysts. Peptides were extracted on octadodecasilyl silica columns with 80% methanol in 0.5 mol/L acetic acid. The identity of follicular fluid beta-endorphin, methionine enkephalin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and beta-lipotropin and standard peptides was demonstrated with high-pressure liquid chromatography. Peptide concentrations were measured in extracts by radioimmunoassays either directly by (methionine enkephalin and adrenocorticotropic hormone) or after (beta-endorphin and beta-lipotropin) gel filtration on Sephadex G-75. The concentrations of methionine enkephalin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and beta-lipotropin were similar in the different periods of the cycle. Conversely, beta-endorphin concentrations were significantly higher in preovulatory days than in the other periods; no differences were evident between spontaneous and stimulated cycles. These results indicate that proopiomelanocortin-related peptides are present in the follicular fluid and that beta-endorphin concentrations change during the menstrual cycle, with the highest values occurring in the preovulatory follicle.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Body Fluids / analysis
  • Clomiphene / therapeutic use
  • Endorphins / metabolism*
  • Enkephalin, Methionine / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle*
  • Ovarian Follicle / metabolism*
  • Ovulation Induction
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • beta-Endorphin
  • beta-Lipotropin / metabolism*


  • Endorphins
  • Clomiphene
  • Enkephalin, Methionine
  • beta-Endorphin
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • beta-Lipotropin