Continuous Free Cortisol Profiles in Healthy Men - Validation of Microdialysis Method

R Bhake, G M Russell, Y Kershaw, K Stevens, F Zaccardi, V E C Warburton, A C E Linthorst, S L Lightman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


CONTEXT: In humans, approximately 95% of circulating cortisol is bound to corticosteroid-binding globulin and albumin. It is only the free fraction that is biologically active and can activate signalling pathways via glucocorticoid hormone receptors in cells. Microdialysis is a well-established technique that enables the sampling of molecules in different compartments of the body, including extracellular fluid. This is the first study validating a rapid sampling microdialysis method measuring free cortisol in the subcutaneous and blood compartments of healthy volunteers.

METHODS: Healthy non-smoking volunteers (42 men; age 18-24 years; BMI 18-25 kg/m2) received placebo (saline), 250 µg Synacthen or 1 mg dexamethasone with ten minutely sampling to measure total and free cortisol (subcutaneous, intravenous and saliva) for an hour before and 4 hours after administration.

RESULTS: Following stimulation by Synacthen, total serum cortisol and free cortisol in both compartments rose significantly, achieving and maintaining maximum levels between 2 and 3 hours following the stimulus. A decline in cortisol levels was evident after the administration of dexamethasone or placebo, but there was a clear pulsatile activity around lunchtime in the latter group which was prominent in the blood compartment (total and free cortisol). There was good correlation between serum total and free cortisol (SC and intravenous) in the Synacthen and dexamethasone groups with no significant delay (less than 5 minutes) between total and free cortisol.

CONCLUSIONS: This seminal study demonstrated the dynamic responses of total blood cortisol and microdialysis derived free cortisol in blood, subcutaneous tissue and saliva in man.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdgz002
Pages (from-to)e1749-e1761
JournalThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number4
Early online date16 Sep 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Sep 2019

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