Oxytocin is a hypothalamus derived, posterior pituitary stored nonapeptide which has gained recent interest as an important neuropsychiatric and metabolic hormone beyond its classic role in lactation and parturition. Hypopituitarism is a heterogenous disorder of derangement in one or more anterior or posterior pituitary hormones. Diagnosis of deficiency and hormone replacement exists to address all relevant axes except for oxytocin. Our study aims to define derangements in oxytocin in a unique population of patients with hypopituitarism and correlate levels with measures of emotional health and quality of life.
A cross-sectional, single day study was completed to measure plasma oxytocin levels in a diverse population of patients with hypopituitarism compared to controls. Subjects also completed depression, quality of life and stress-related questionnaires, and emotion recognition tasks.
Thirty-eight subjects completed the study, 18 with hypopituitarism (9 with diabetes insipidus) and 20 controls. After controlling for differences in age, weight and gender, plasma oxytocin levels were highest in subjects with diabetes insipidus compared to control [mean, IQR: 44.3 pg/ml (29.8–78.2) vs. 20.6 (17–31.3), p = 0.032]. Amongst hypopituitary subjects, those with duration of disease greater than 1 year had higher oxytocin levels. No significant differences were observed for psychosocial measures including emotion recognition tasks.
Plasma oxytocin levels were found higher in patients with hypopituitarism compared to controls and highest in those with diabetes insipidus. Longer duration of hypopituitarism was also associated with higher plasma levels of oxytocin. Further study is needed to better define oxytocin deficiency and investigate response to treatment.
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We would also like to acknowledge Dr. Toni Zeigler and her laboratory for assisting in oxytocin measures. Grant support: BTL was supported by the National Institutes of Health under award number, R01DK104927-01A1 and Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development, VA merit (Grant No. 1I01BX003382).
The authors have nothing to declare.
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Eisenberg, Y., Murad, S., Casagrande, A. et al. Oxytocin alterations and neurocognitive domains in patients with hypopituitarism. Pituitary 22, 105–112 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11102-019-00936-0