Serum bone Gla protein (BGP), a marker of osteoblastic function, serum carboxyterminal cross-linked telopeptide of type I collagen (ICTP), a marker of bone resorption, and serum aminoterminal propeptide of type III procollagen (PIIINP) levels, an index of collagen synthesis, were determined in seven children and eight adults with congenital growth hormone deficiency (GHD). In children with GHD, serum BGP (mean +/- s.e.: 12.9 +/- 0.7 ng/ml), ICTP (8.3 +/- 1.3 ng/ml) and PIINP (3.5 +/- 0.5 ng/ml) levels were significantly lower (P < 0.001) than those recorded in normal children (BGP 18.9 +/- 0.8 ng/ml, ICTP 14.4 +/- 0.5 ng/ml and PIIINP 6.7 +/- 0.7 ng/ml). Total alkaline phosphatase (184.7 +/- 13.4 IU/l) and bone alkaline phosphatase (77.8 +/- 4.1 IU/l) levels were also significantly lower (P < 0.0001) than in controls (338.1 +/- 14.9 IU/l and 181.0 +/- 7.8 IU/l, respectively). Serum BGP, ICTP and PIIINP levels were not significantly correlated with height velocity values. In adults with GHD, mean BGP levels (3.8 +/- 0.3 ng/ml) were significantly lower (P < 0.0001) than those recorded in normals (5.4 +/- 0.1 ng/ml). On the contrary, serum ICTP levels were similar to those found in controls (patients: 4.7 +/- 0.8 ng/ml vs normals: 4.1 +/- 0.3 ng/ml), suggesting the presence of a normal resorption activity associated with a reduced osteoblastic function. This finding was also confirmed by the presence of reduced bone alkaline phosphatase levels (GHD: 44.9 +/- 6.9 IU/I vs controls: 58.3 +/- 2.0 IU/I; P<0.02), while the less specific total alkaline phosphatase levels (119.5 +/- 14.8 IU/I) were similar to those recorded in normal subjects (122.3 +/- 4.0 IU/I). Serum PIIINP levels (3.7 +/- 0.6 ng/ml) were similar to those recorded in normals (3.2 +/- 0.2 ng/ml), suggesting that in adulthood the collagen turnover is not negatively influenced by the chronic GHD. No significant correlations were found between BGP/ICTP/PIIINP and IGF-I levels. In conclusion, our data show that in children with GHD the lack of GH insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) effects on bone and collagen turnover is associated with a significant reduction of bone turnover (low bone formation plus low bone resoRption) and collagen synthesis. On the contrary, adult GHD seems to exert less relevant effects on bone and collagen turnover, probably due to the fact that in adult life further hormones or local factors might partially counteract the negative consequences of chronic GH-IGF-I deficiency.
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