The concept of pituitary refractory period for GH secretion has been previously described. To measure the length of this refractory period we performed an exercise provocation test for GH secretion immediately following multiple overnight GH blood sampling. In addition, we correlated the magnitude of the GH response to a single exercise input with mean overnight GH, IGF-I and circulating IGFBP levels. 23 healthy adolescent females (15-17 yr) performed 10-min constant cycle ergometry at a power normalized to each subject's aerobic and anaerobic capacity. GH was measured every 10 min starting 10 min before exercise and then for 60 min after the exercise bout. Mean nocturnal GH was calculated from overnight values obtained every 20 min over a 12-h period. Pre-exercise GHBP, IGF-I and IGFBPs 1-5 were assessed using standard techniques. In five subjects, a spontaneous GH peak had preceded the exercise test by 1 hour or less, and no response to exercise was found. In the remaining 18 subjects, a GH peak (6.8±1.3 ng/ml, p<0.0001) was observed at 32±4 min after the onset of exercise. The GH response to exercise was not correlated with fitness, mean GH or IGF-I but was correlated with IGFBP-3 (r=0.65, p<0.05). Spontaneous GH pulses may acutely render the pituitary refractory to exercise stimuli. The length of this refractory period is approximately 1 hour. The data corroborate the idea that while relationships exist among the various components of the GH-IGF-I axis, no single factor identified to date fully reflects GH-IGF-I 'tone'.
- Refractory period