Low adrenal androgenic-anabolic steroids in women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA): gas-liquid chromatographic studies of RA patients and matched normal control women indicating decreased 11-deoxy-17-ketosteroid excretion

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1984 Aug;14(1):1-23. doi: 10.1016/0049-0172(84)90005-2.


Using GLC, multiple adrenal corticosteroid urinary metabolites, including androgenic-anabolic, glucocorticoid, pregnanediol, and pregnanetriol, were measured in eight ambulatory female RA patients and eight matched normal control subjects on baseline, ACTH-, and metyrapone-stimulation days under carefully monitored clinical research center protocol. Neither group had been treated previously with any steroid hormones. The 11-deoxy-17-KS metabolites, derived from adrenal androgenic-anabolic steroids, and comprising androsterone, etiocholanolone, and DHA, were significantly lower in RA patients on baseline (P less than .001), ACTH (P less than .005)-, and metyrapone (P less than .02)-stimulation days. To the contrary, the 11-oxy-17-KS metabolites, derived mainly from glucocorticoids, showed some lowered excretion at baseline (P less than .05), but none on ACTH- or metyrapone-stimulation. RA patients had lower tetrahydrocortisone (P less than .001) and tetrahydro-11-deoxycortisol (P less than .01) excretion at baseline, but not during ACTH- or metyrapone-stimulation, than control subjects. Pregnanetriol excretion was lower (P less than .005) in RA patients than control subjects only during ACTH-stimulation. No difference was found between groups in tetrahydrocortisol or pregnanediol excretion on any day studied. Under conditions of oral metyrapone administration (750 mg every four hours for seven doses) each control subject increased their DHA excretion, but no RA patient showed an increase over baseline excretion (P less than .02). Except for 11-deoxy-17-KS, no difference was found in the other metabolites studied during metyrapone stimulation, ie, pregnanediol, pregnanetriol, tetrahydro-11-deoxycortisol, and tetrahydrocortisol. The 24-hour oral metyrapone test provided a greater stimulus to total 11-deoxy-17-KS excretion than an eight-hour intravenous ACTH test in control and particularly RA (P less than .01) subjects even though the DHA excretion decreased in the RA groups. Our findings of lower adrenal androgenic-anabolic metabolite excretion in female RA patients than normal matched control subjects under various conditions and other supportive androgenic hormone and metabolite studies reviewed in the English reports suggest an abnormality of adrenal androgen synthesis or metabolism in RA, whether it be a primary predisposing or secondary factor in disease. The recognized female sex preponderance and age-specific patterns of occurrence of RA are consistent with adrenal androgenic function in adrenarche, adrenopause, and later changes in aging. Metabolite excretion patterns at baseline, ACTH-, and metyrapone- stimulation indicate the greatest relative

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 17-Hydroxycorticosteroids / urine
  • 17-Ketosteroids / urine*
  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism*
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Adult
  • Anabolic Agents / urine*
  • Androgens / urine*
  • Androsterone / analogs & derivatives
  • Androsterone / urine
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / etiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / urine*
  • Calorimetry
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Cortodoxone / analogs & derivatives
  • Cortodoxone / urine
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / urine
  • Etiocholanolone / urine
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Metyrapone
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnanediol / urine
  • Pregnanetriol / urine


  • 17-Hydroxycorticosteroids
  • 17-Ketosteroids
  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Pregnanetriol
  • 11-ketoandrosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • 11 beta-hydroxyandrosterone
  • tetrahydro-11-deoxycortisol
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Etiocholanolone
  • Androsterone
  • Pregnanediol
  • Cortodoxone
  • Metyrapone