Comparison of pituitary-adrenal responsiveness between insulin tolerance test and growth hormone-releasing peptide-2 test: A pilot study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Insulin tolerance test (ITT) is the gold standard for assessing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function. GH-releasing peptide (GHRP)-2, which has a strong GH-stimulating activity, is useful for diagnosing GH deficiency as well as ITT. Additionally, GHRP-2 is also known to activate HPA axis. There have been no comparative studies of pituitary-adrenal responsiveness between GHRP-2 test and ITT in patients with hypothalamic/pituitary disease. To assess whether GHRP-2 test could be an alternative to ITT for diagnosing HPA axis failure, both ITT and GHRP-2 test were performed in 15 patients suspected of hypopituitarism. A 100 μg dose of GHRP-2 was administered intravenously and plasma ACTH and serum cortisol concentrations were measured. In ITT, a peak cortisol value over 18 μg/dl is considered normal. Nine patients were diagnosed as HPA axis failure by ITT. Their median peak cortisol in GHRP-2 test was 11.4 μg/ml. In 6 patients diagnosed as normal HPA axis status by ITT, their median peak cortisol in response to GHRP-2 test was 21.4 μg/dl, significantly higher (p = 0.0032) than seen in patients diagnosed as HPA axis failure. There was a strong correlation between the peak cortisol in GHRP-2 test and ITT (r = 0.817; p < 0.0001). When the cut-off value for the peak cortisol in GHRP-2 test was set to 13-14 μg/dl for diagnosing HPA axis failure, the specificity and sensitivity were 100% and 88.9%, respectively. Although further studies that include normal subjects are needed, these preliminary results suggest the possibility that GHRP-2 test may be an alternative to ITT for assessing HPA axis function.


  • Toshiko Kano-Wakakuri
  • Hitoshi Sugihara
  • Mariko Sudo
  • Mototsugu Nagao
  • Taro Harada
  • Akira Ishizaki
  • Yasushi Nakajima
  • Kyouko Tanimura
  • Fumitaka Okajima
  • Hideki Tamura
  • Shinya Ishii
  • Tamotsu Shibasaki
  • Shinichi Oikawa
External organisations
  • Nippon Medical School
Research areas and keywords


  • GHRP-2, HPA axis, Insulin tolerance test
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-661
Number of pages5
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Apr
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes