Administration of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) or adrenomedullin (AM) can cause facial flushing, suggesting that the peptides may be important in hot flushes experienced particularly by post-menopausal women. Five studies have measured plasma CGRP concentrations in post-menopausal women who suffer from flushes; all demonstrated elevations of between 170% and 320% over control. Three of the studies showed a temporal relationship between flushes and CGRP elevation. A further study has shown that CGRP is elevated in the urine of women who suffer from flushes. Only a single study has investigated flushes in pre-menopausal women; no elevation of CGRP was observed. Flushes are also experienced by men undergoing androgen deprivation therapy. Whilst one study failed to find any increase in CGRP in the urine of these individuals, a small study has identified an increase in plasma CGRP. No studies have investigated plasma AM or the related peptide, intermedin/AM2. Overall, there is good evidence to show that flushes in post-menopausal women are accompanied by an increase in CGRP. CGRP could act centrally on the thermoregulatory centre of the hypothalamus as well as peripherally to cause vasodilation and sweating. However, it remains to be demonstrated that the elevated CGRP causes flushes. Recently developed CGRP antagonists provide an opportunity to test this hypothesis. If they are successful, they may represent a useful alternative to oestrogen replacement therapy.
- calcitonin gene-related peptide
- hot flashes
- peripheral vasodilation