Context Although steroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland play critical roles in human physiology, a detailed quantitative analysis of the steroid products has not been reported. The current study uses a single methodology (liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, LC-MS/MS) to quantify ten corticosteroids in adrenal vein (AV) samples pre- and post-adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation. Design/methods Three men and six women with a diagnosis of an adrenal aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA) were included in the study. Serum was collected from the iliac vein (IV) and the AV contralateral to the diseased adrenal. Samples were collected, before and after administration of ACTH. LC-MS/MS was then used to quantify serum concentrations of unconjugated corticosteroids and their precursors. Results Prior to ACTH stimulation, the four most abundant steroids in AV were cortisol (90%), cortisone (4%), corticosterone (3%) and 11-deoxycortisol (0·8%). Post-ACTH administration, cortisol remained the major adrenal product (79%); however, corticosterone became the second most abundantly produced adrenal steroid (11%) followed by pregnenolone (2·5%) and 17α- hydroxypregnenolone (2%). ACTH significantly increased the absolute adrenal output of all ten corticosteroids measured (P < 0·05). The four largest post-ACTH increases were pregnenolone (300-fold), progesterone (199-fold), 17α-hydroxypregnenolone (187-fold) and deoxycorticosterone (82-fold). Conclusion Using LC-MS/MS, we successfully measured 10 corticosteroids in peripheral and AV serum samples under pre- and post-ACTH stimulation. This study demonstrates the primary adrenal steroid products and their response to ACTH.
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