In order to assess a possible influence of endogenous opioids upon gonadotrophin secretion in women, we examined the effects of i.v. administration of 10 mg naloxone, a specific opiate antagonist, in ten normal menstruating women, in thirteen women with amenorrhoea and/or hyperprolactinaemia and in two women with putative deficiency of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH). In thirteen subjects, a saline vehicle control study (randomized order of administration) was also performed. In the normal women, naloxone failed to elicit changes in serum gonadotrophin levels when administered during the early follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. However, significant increments of LH were observed from 30 to 165 min following naloxone administration during the late follicular phase. Similar LH responses occurred in the amenorrhoeic and hyperprolactinaemic women. There was a tendency towards a concomitant increment in FSH levels, which reached statistical significance variably from 60 to 105 min post-naloxone. The LH response to naloxone in individual subjects showed a significant (P > 0·01) quadratic (U-shaped) relationship to the log basal oestradiol concentration. No response to naloxone was observed in the two patients with GnRH deficiency despite a brisk response to an exogenous GnRH bolus. Taken together, these data suggest that central nervous system inhibitory opioid pathways may be involved in the regulation of LH secretion in normal women and that excessive production of endogenous opioids may play a role in the pathophysiology of some amenorrhoeic conditions.
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