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BK Brar, J Railson, A Stephanou, RA Knight and DS Latchman

We have previously demonstrated that urocortin protects cultured cardiac myocytes from ischaemic and reoxygenation injury and decreases the infarct size in the rat heart exposed to regional ischaemia and reperfusion. Urocortin-mediated cardioprotection is via activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP kinase, MEK1/2) pathway. In addition, it is well documented that heat shock protein (hsp) 70 and hsp90 are cardioprotective against lethal stress. In this study we show, for the first time, that urocortin induces the expression of hsp90 but not hsp70 in primary cultures of rat neonatal cardiac myocytes. Levels of hsp90 protein increase by 1.5-fold over untreated cells within 10 min of urocortin treatment and are sustained for 24 h with a maximal increase of 2.5-fold at 60 min (P<0.05 at all time points). The increase in hsp90 expression by urocortin was not inhibited by actinomycin D, and urocortin failed to increase hsp90 promoter activity. Urocortin induction of hsp90 was inhibited by the MEK1/2 inhibitor PD98059 (P<0.001) and by cycloheximide, and both inhibitors abrogate urocortin-mediated cardioprotection (P<0.05 for cycloheximide, P<0.001 for PD98059). Hence, MEK1/2 and protein synthesis are involved in the cardioprotective effect of urocortin against hypoxic-mediated cell death, possibly due to an increase in expression of hsp90 protein. This is the first report of heat shock protein induction by urocortin or any other member of the corticotrophin-releasing hormone family.

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M. S. Harbuz, A. Stephanou, N. Sarlis and S. L. Lightman


We have investigated the effects of recombinant human interleukin (IL)-1α, IL-1β and IL-6 on the activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis. We have determined the effects of a single i.p. injection of cytokine on circulating ACTH and corticosterone levels, corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) mRNA in the parvocellular cells of the paraventricular nucleus and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA in the anterior pituitary at both 4 h and 24 h after injection. IL-1α had no effect on any of the parameters measured at either time-point. In contrast, IL-1β increased CRF mRNA in the parvocellular paraventricular nucleus and POMC mRNA in the anterior pituitary 4 h after injection. Plasma ACTH and corticosterone were increased at 4 h and circulating ACTH was still increased at 24 h after treatment with IL-1β. IL-6 had no effect on message levels but did increase circulating ACTH and corticosterone levels both 4 h and 24 h after injection. The mechanism responsible for the increase in circulating ACTH after IL-6 injection is unclear but would appear to be different from that which is activated by IL-1β which also results in increased CRF and POMC gene expression.

Journal of Endocrinology (1992) 133, 349–355

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A Stephanou, L Myatt, A L W Eis, N Sarlis, H Jikihara and S Handwerger


During human placental differentiation, mononuclear cytotrophoblast cells fuse and differentiate into syncytiotrophoblast cells. Although syncytiotrophoblast cells have been shown to express interleukin-1α (IL-1α), IL-1β and IL-6, the pattern of expression of these cytokines during placental differentiation is unknown. We have examined the expression of IL-1α, IL-1β and IL-6 mRNA during differentiation of cytotrophoblast cells in culture. IL-1α, IL-1β and IL-6 mRNA levels were determined by semiquantitative reverse transcription-PCR analysis using glyceraldehyde phosphate dehydrogenase as an internal control. All three cytokine mRNA levels decreased markedly during trophoblast differentiation. After 6 days in culture, when almost all the cytotrophoblast cells had fused and differentiated into syncytiotrophoblast cells, the amounts of IL-1α, IL-1β and IL-6 mRNA were decreased by 87·1, 72·1 and 60·9% respectively. Exogenous IL-6 had differential effects on cytokine mRNA expression. When added to placental cultures during the first 6 days of culture, IL-6 markedly inhibited IL-6, IL-1α and IL-1β mRNA expression. However, when added to the cells during days 6–9 of culture, when most of the cells were syncytiotrophoblast cells, IL-6 stimulated IL-lα and IL-1β mRNA expression. The results of these studies indicate that IL-1α, IL-1β and IL-6 mRNA expression decreases markedly during cytotrophoblast differentiation in vitro and that the regulation of trophoblast cytokine mRNA levels changes during differentiation.

Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 147, 487–496