Gonadotropin-releasing hormone pulse generator activity during pubertal transition in girls: pulsatile and diurnal patterns of circulating gonadotropins

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1993 Apr;76(4):940-9. doi: 10.1210/jcem.76.4.8473410.


To delineate the activity of the GnRH pulse generator during pubertal transition, 40 healthy girls 7-18 yr of age were studied. Ten were prepubertal (PP), 7 were in early puberty (EP), and 23 were in late puberty (LP, all postmenarcheal). Serum concentrations of LH and FSH were measured with immunofluorometric assays, which have a sensitivity about 100-fold that of RIA, in samples taken at 10-min intervals for 24 h during basal conditions, during Nal-Glu antagonist suppression, and in response to GnRH stimulation (10 micrograms). Serum levels of androstenedione, testosterone, and estradiol were measured with RIA. A pulsatile pattern of LH and FSH secretion was found in girls of all ages. PP girls had irregular LH pulses with low amplitudes during the daytime, but increased amplitude LH and FSH pulses were evident within 1 h after sleep-onset. Older PP girls had more regular and higher amplitude pulses throughout sleep than younger PP girls. The sleep-related LH and FSH pulses in PP girls were abolished with Nal-Glu GnRH antagonist treatment, reflecting endogenous GnRH pulse activities. The PP group had the most pronounced amplification of LH secretion with sleep yielding a sleep-wake ratio of 4, which decreased to 2 in the EP group and to 1 in the LP group. The emergence of regular daytime LH pulses along with a further amplification of pulsatile activity during sleep was closely related to the onset of breast development. By the age of 16 yr, an LH secretory pattern characteristic of adult women in the early follicular phase, i.e. a decrease in LH concentration during sleep, was established. Mean 24-h LH concentrations increased 40-fold from PP to LP consequent to a 9-fold increase in pulse amplitude and a 4-fold increase in pulse number (both P < 0.0001). Mean FSH concentrations (24 h), which were 20-fold higher than corresponding LH concentrations in the PP group, increased only 3-fold from the PP to the LP group. FSH pulse secretion appears to be predominantly GnRH dependent in PP girls in contrast to girls after ovarian activation, as indicated by the increased FSH responses to both GnRH antagonist suppression and GnRH stimulation in the PP as compared to the EP and LP groups. We conclude that the GnRH pulse generator is functionally active in prepubertal girls with selective expression of LH and FSH pulses after the onset of sleep. The onset of puberty is associated with a greater increase in LH pulse amplitude than frequency.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Fluoroimmunoassay
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood*
  • Forecasting
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / analogs & derivatives
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood*
  • Puberty / metabolism*
  • Pulsatile Flow


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • LHRH, N-Ac-2-Nal(1)-4-Cl-Phe(2)-3-Pal(3)-Arg(5)-Glu(6)-AlaNH2(10)-
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone