Spontaneous thyrotropin and cortisol secretion interactions in patients with nonclassical 21-hydroxylase deficiency and control children

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Nov;82(11):3677-83. doi: 10.1210/jcem.82.11.4364.


Both exogenous and endogenous hypercortisolism result in reduced TSH secretion and mild hypothyroidism. However, little is known about the relation between endogenous TSH and cortisol secretion under physiological or slightly disturbed conditions. To examine this, we evaluated the pulsatility and circadian rhythmicity and time-cross-correlated the 24-h secretory patterns of cortisol and TSH in eight prepubertal children with nonclassical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCCAH) and eight age-matched short normal children. In both groups, TSH and cortisol were secreted in a pulsatile and circadian fashion, with a clear nocturnal TSH surge. Although no difference in mean 24-h TSH levels was observed between the two groups, daytime TSH levels were lower in the NCCAH group than in control children (P < 0.05). The cross-correlation analysis of the 24-h raw data showed that TSH and cortisol were negatively correlated, with a 2.5-h lag time for both groups, with cortisol leading TSH. This correlation might reflect a negative glucocorticoid effect exerted on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis under physiological conditions. A significant positive correlation with TSH leading cortisol was observed at 8.5 and 5.5 h lag times for the control and NCCAH groups, respectively. The substantially shorter lag time of this positive correlation in NCCAH children than in controls suggests that in the latter, the nocturnal TSH peak occurs temporally closer to their compromised morning cortisol peak. These data indicate that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis has a primarily negative influence on endogenous TSH secretion and that even mild disturbances in cortisol biosynthesis are associated with slight alterations in TSH secretion.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital* / physiopathology*
  • Body Height
  • Child
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Periodicity*
  • Thyrotropin / metabolism*


  • Thyrotropin
  • Hydrocortisone