Previous studies have reported that the monotropic rise in FSH in older women is associated with decreased inhibin B and/or A levels and increased levels of activin A. Whereas most investigators have found decreased follicular-phase inhibin B, the roles of inhibin A and activin A as modulators of the FSH rise are unclear. The objectives of this study were to determine whether deficiencies in circulating levels of inhibin A, inhibin B, and/or activin A exist during the intercycle interval in ovulatory older (age, 40-45 yr; n = 16), compared with younger women (age, 20-25 yr; n = 13). Blood samples were obtained daily throughout one menstrual cycle and the follicular phase of the subsequent cycle and were analyzed for LH, FSH, estradiol, inhibin A and B, and activin A. Despite significant FSH elevation, no deficiencies in inhibin A, activin A, or estradiol were detected in older subjects. In fact, inhibin A was significantly higher in older participants during the intercycle phase (P = 0.01), whereas inhibin B was significantly lower. Thus, the monotropic rise in FSH does not appear to result from changes in inhibin A or activin A, supporting the concept that inhibin B plays a critical role in mediating the FSH rise in older women.
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