Three experiments were carried out in which plasma cortisol concentrations were measured hourly in lambs treated with various anabolic steroids. In the first experiment, female lambs were implanted with trenbolone acetate (TBA) and plasma cortisol was measured for 24-h periods 4 weeks after implantation and 1 week after reimplantation. Plasma cortisol levels were unaltered 4 weeks after treatment, but were found to be significantly lower 1 week after retreatment. On this occasion, peak concentrations of cortisol after ACTH challenge were also reduced by TBA. In the second experiment, female lambs were implanted with a mixture of TBA and oestradiol and plasma cortisol measured 1 and 4 weeks later. Results were similar to the first experiment although the reduction in plasma cortisol was less. In the third experiment, castrated male lambs were implanted with either TBA, TBA plus oestradiol or a long-acting oestradiol implant. In this experiment, only oestradiol affected plasma cortisol levels, causing a large elevation. All three treatments stimulated growth. Measurement of bound and free cortisol concentration in the third experiment indicated that oestradiol treatment tended to increase the proportion of cortisol present in the free form.
These results suggest that an inhibition of cortisol secretion may be important in the anabolic response of female sheep to TBA. In the male, however, cortisol concentrations are naturally lower and are not further reduced by TBA treatment.
Plasma insulin concentrations were also measured in the castrated males. Neither TBA nor the combined implant altered insulin levels, but oestrogen treatment resulted in a small increase in insulin. The diurnal pattern of plasma insulin closely paralleled that of cortisol.