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A. N. Brooks and A. White


In sheep, birth is preceded by an increase in fetal plasma concentrations of ACTH and cortisol. Activation of the fetal pituitary-adrenal axis is pivotal to the onset of parturition in this species and may be regulated, at least in part, by corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF). Pulsed administration of CRF has been shown to activate the fetal pituitary-adrenal axis in immature fetal sheep. However, pituitary ACTH responsiveness declined after continued administration of CRF, as a result of increasing negative feedback effects of increased concentrations of endogenous cortisol. To test the hypothesis that arginine vasopressin (AVP) is required, in addition to CRF, to produce the necessary trophic stimulus to the pituitary-adrenal axis, we administered saline, CRF (1 μg), AVP (200 ng) or CRF plus AVP as pulses every 4 h for 7 days to fetal sheep beginning at days 117–120 of pregnancy (term =145 days). Pituitary-adrenal responses were assessed by measuring plasma concentrations of immunoreactive (ir) ACTH and cortisol in response to one of the pulses on each of the 7 days of treatment.

On day 1, CRF and AVP significantly increased plasma concentrations of ir-ACTH and there was a synergistic interaction when the two peptides were given together (P<0·05). However, as pulsed treatment continued there was a decline in the pituitary ir-ACTH response to all treatments (P<0·05). This decline in pituitary response occurred over a much longer period of time when CRF and AVP were given together when compared with the two peptides given separately. In contrast, the cortisol response to endogenously released ir-ACTH after administration of CRF, AVP or CRF plus AVP was small on day 1 but gradually increased as treatment progressed. This was particularly apparent when the two peptides were given together. A significant inverse correlation (r = 0·781, P<0·01) between basal cortisol concentrations and the ir-ACTH response to CRF plus AVP was observed over the 7 days of treatment. Premature delivery was not induced by any of the treatments despite significant increases in fetal adrenal weight. Furthermore, there were no changes in the circulating maternal plasma concentrations of progesterone or oestrone during the 7 days of the experiment.

We conclude that combination of CRF and AVP administered as pulses to immature fetal sheep results in a greater degree of pituitary-adrenal activation when compared with the two peptides given independently. However, even after this combined treatment regimen pituitary responsiveness eventually declines, an effect which may be due to increased negative feedback effects of increased endogenous cortisol.

Journal of Endocrinology (1990) 124, 27–35

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W. D. Booth and C. A. White


Pheromaxein, the 16-androstene steroid-binding protein with a relative molecular mass of 15 000 was isolated in sub-milligram quantities from the submaxillary gland and saliva of the Gottingen miniature boar, after a fourfold purification involving the following methods: ultrafiltration for submaxillary gland cytosols and ethanol precipitation for saliva, Concanavalin-A-Sepharose affinity chromatography, sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, 'Extractigel-D' affinity chromatography (to remove sodium dodecyl sulphate) and fast protein-liquid chromatography. Yields of purified pheromaxein obtained after fast protein-liquid chromatography represented 10–20% of total protein present in an ultrafiltrate of a submaxillary gland cytosol. Fast protein-liquid chromatography separated the α- and β-charge isomers of pheromaxein which were shown to have isoelectric points of 4·78 and 5·35 respectively on flat-bed isoelectric focusing. Some data are provided for the variable occurrence of the isomeric forms of pheromaxein in relation to different breeds of pig. Five 16-unsaturated steroids showed the highest binding to pheromaxein. Other steroids of the 5α- and 5β-androstane series also showed some binding to pheromaxein, i.e. 17β-hydroxy-5α-androstan-3-one (19·2%), with 5α-androstan-3-one, which has a similar urinous odour to 5α-androst-16-en-3-one, showing the greatest binding (42·6%) relative to 5α-androst-16-en-3-one (100%).

J. Endocr. (1988) 118, 47–57

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LE Pritchard, AV Turnbull, and A White

Bioactive peptides derived from the prohormone, pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), are generated in neurons of the hypothalamus and act as endogenous ligands for the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R), a key molecule underlying appetite control and energy homeostasis. It is therefore important to understand many aspects of POMC gene regulation in the brain, as pharmacological manipulation of POMC expression/processing could be a potential strategy to combat obesity. Most studies that have analysed POMC gene expression in the hypothalamus have focused on gene transcription experiments. Ultimately, however, factors that regulate post-translational processing and secretion of peptides will have most bearing on melanocortin signalling. This article focuses on (a) current evidence that POMC is involved in obesity, (b) how POMC transcription is regulated in the hypothalamus, (c) the mechanism by which proteolytic processing of POMC is controlled in the hypothalamus and what peptides are produced and (d) which POMC-derived peptides are the most potent ligands at the melanocortin receptor in vitro and in vivo. It seems that post-translational cleavage of POMC in the hypothalamus may be regulated with respect to energy requirement. We predict that further research into hypothalamic POMC processing, and the proteolytic enzymes involved, may yield important new clues on how flux through the MC4R pathway is regulated.

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KW Siddals, M Westwood, JM Gibson, and A White

IGF action in vivo is acutely regulated by IGF-binding protein-1 (IGFBP-1) and its phosphorylation state is implicated in modulating these effects. Since IGFs have an important regulatory role in adipocyte function, we investigated the effects of phosphorylated IGFBP-1 (pIGFBP-1) and non-phosphorylated IGFBP-1 (npIGF BP-1) on 3T3-L1 preadipocyte proliferation and adipocyte metabolism. IGFs stimulated clonal expansion of 3T3-L1 cells (IGF-I more potently than IGF-II (EC(50): 30 nM and 50 nM)). npIGFBP-1 inhibited IGF-I (50 nM) clonal expansion at a 5:1 molar ratio (P<0.01), whereas pIGFBP-1 (purified from HepG2 cell medium) abolished clonal expansion at a 1:1 molar ratio (P<0.005). In contrast, IGF-II-induced clonal expansion was inhibited 100% at a 1:1 molar ratio of npIGFBP-1. In mature adipocytes, IGF-I was equipotent with insulin in stimulating glucose uptake (EC(50): 10 nM) and inhibiting isoproterenol-induced lipolysis (EC(50): 15 nM). npIGFBP-1 completely reversed IGF-I effects at a 1:1 molar ratio (P<0.01). In summary, IGFs rather than insulin are potent regulators of clonal expansion in 3T3-L1 preadipocytes. Importantly, IGFs are equipotent with insulin in regulating adipocyte metabolism. IGFBP-1 inhibits IGF effects on preadipocyte proliferation and adipocyte metabolism, with pIGFBP-1 being more potent than npIGFBP-1 at inhibiting mitogenic actions. Since IGFBP-1 is acutely regulated by insulin, this could have important consequences in hyperinsulinaemic and insulin-resistant states.

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Survival of mice treated with sesame seed oil after adrenalectomy was very low and suggested no beneficial effect, whereas treatment with progesterone improved the chances of survival. Treatment with desoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA) and methyl prednisolone acetate also increased the number of animals surviving after adrenalectomy. The corticosteroids were significantly more effective in ensuring survival than was progesterone. There was no significant difference in survival between mice receiving a single injection of 10 mg DOCA and those being given an injection of 1·0 mg DOCA per day for 3 days after the operation. To ensure minimum interference of exogenous corticosteroid with the experimental investigation, animals routinely received only a single injection of 1·0 mg DOCA after the operation.

The chance of survival after adrenalectomy was higher in pregnant than in non-pregnant mice. There was a significant linear increase in survival during the first 5 days of pregnancy. Progesterone and prolactin both appeared to be involved in increasing the chance of survival in adrenalectomized pregnant mice.

Adrenalectomy had no effect on the number of mice mating and ovulating. Adrenalectomized mice were apparently having normal cycles and 4 weeks after adrenalectomy they were able to mate and ovulate. Compensatory ovulation was seen in hemi-ovariectomized mice and was not abolished by adrenalectomy. Implantation was also unaffected by the operation.

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C E Waters, A Stevens, A White, and D W Ray

Human small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) tumours exhibit neuroendocrine differentiation, secreting hormones such as ACTH and related peptides. While glucocorticoids inhibit ACTH secretion from the pituitary, this does not occur in SCLC tumours and SCLC cell lines. Failure of glucocorticoids to suppress ACTH peptides is accompanied by a global lack of glucocorticoid action in a number of SCLC cell lines.

In the human SCLC cell line, COR L103, activation of a human tyrosine aminotransferase (TAT3)-luciferase reporter gene is resistant to glucocorticoids despite similar glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression to the glucocorticoid-sensitive A549 human lung cancer cell line; moreover, the GR is free of deleterious mutations. Over-expression of a wild-type GR restores glucocorticoid regulation of TAT3-luciferase, and this is enhanced when the activation function (AF)-2 domain is deleted but much reduced when the AF-1 domain is deleted. This suggests aberrant AF-2 activation domain function. We identified defective steroid receptor co-activator 1 (SRC1) recruitment to the GR AF-2 in COR L103 cells, although SRC1 was successfully recruited to the steroid X receptor with rifampicin, suggesting a defect in the GR. Analysis of other GR C-terminal co-factors identified increased expression of nuclear co-repressor (NCoR) in COR L103 cells. To determine the impact of this, NCoR was over-expressed in A549 cells, where it reduced GR transactivation by 55%.

In summary, glucocorticoid resistance is associated with altered SRC protein recruitment and increased expression of NCoR in these SCLC cells, suggesting that glucocorticoid sensitivity may be modified by subtle changes in co-factor recruitment.

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TT Huynh, DW Ray, IJ Brogan, A Stevens, Davis JR, and A White

We have previously described a panel of human small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) cell lines that have profound glucocorticoid resistance, resulting from various molecular defects in glucocorticoid signalling. However, in one SCLC cell line, CORL103, the cause of the resistance is unknown. These cells are refractory to dexamethasone stimulation of MMTV even when exogenous wild-type glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is co-transfected. This is in contrast to cell lines DMS79 and CORL24 where resistance is overcome by transfection of the wild-type receptor. Sequencing of the GR from CORL103 cells revealed two point mutations, but neither of these induced dominant negative activity. Steroid hormone resistance extended to mineralocorticoid and progesterone receptor (MR, PR) activation of MMTV-luc, whereas oestrogen and thyroid hormone receptor transactivation were normal. A simpler reporter, TAT3-luc, containing three copies of the tyrosine aminotransferase glucocorticoid response element (GRE), was responsive when transfected into CORL103 cells with GR, MR and PR expression vectors and activated with their respective ligands. Similarly, pHH-luc and pAH-luc (truncated MMTV variants containing the GRE region, both derived from a different strain of MMTV), were effectively transactivated with dexamethasone. This suggests that the minor changes in the flanking sequence of the MMTV promoter are critically important in determining steroid responsiveness in CORL103 cells. We propose that minor differences in MMTV may determine recruitment of co-factors, which destabilise GR binding to the MMTV GREs. These findings represent a new, selective, model of glucocorticoid resistance that may explain specific cell and target gene differences in glucocorticoid sensitivity.

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J. D. Curlewis, A. S. White, A. S. I. Loudon, and A. S. McNeilly


Prolactin concentration was measured in plasma collected each week for 13 months from lactating and non-lactating Bennett's wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus). In non-lactating animals, prolactin concentrations decreased towards the end of the study but such changes did not appear to fit a seasonal pattern. Prolactin concentrations were low during early lactation and at a similar level to non-lactating animals, increased significantly during late pouch life (February–May), and then returned to non-lactating levels at a time coincident with permanent exit of the joey from the pouch. Temporary removal of joeys from their mothers in April was followed by a rapid decline in prolactin concentrations which remained low for 24 h until the joey was returned to its mother, whereupon prolactin concentrations increased significantly within 2 h.

The effect of a single injection of bromocriptine (5 mg/kg) on lactation, embryonic diapause and plasma prolactin concentrations was examined at two stages of lactation. In November (lactational diapause), bromocriptine had no effect on prolactin concentrations but two out of four suckling joeys died on days 13 and 14 after treatment, and three out of four females gave birth on days 27, 27 and 28. Bromocriptine treatment in April (seasonal diapause) was followed by a significant reduction in prolactin concentrations and reduced growth rate of joeys belonging to treated females. New births were not observed.

In view of the effect of bromocriptine on plasma prolactin concentrations in late lactation and the demonstration that domperidone (a dopamine antagonist) significantly increases plasma prolactin concentrations, it would seem that dopamine can act as a prolactin inhibitory hormone in this as in other mammalian species.

J. Endocr. (1986) 110, 59–66

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E Boyle-Walsh, A Shenkin, M C White, and W D Fraser


Speculation that meningiomas are subject to female hormone influence is supported by their higher incidence in women and reports of exacerbation of symptoms during pregnancy and the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Previous reports have concentrated on the effects of the steroid hormones oestradiol and progesterone on meningioma proliferation. In this study we have investigated the roles of the glycoproteins LH, FSH and human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), and the protein hormones prolactin (PRL) and human placental lactogen (hPL) on the proliferation of human meningiomas in vitro. The three glycoproteins had an inhibitory effect on meningioma proliferation ranging from 5·0–50·0%, 10·0–63·0% and 2·4–34·0% at the highest concentrations of LH (25 mIU/ml), FSH (15 mIU/ml) and hCG (30 IU/ml) respectively. Cultures were also treated with PRL (100 and 200 ng/ml) and hPL (5 and 10 ng/ml) and the protein hormones had a stimulatory effect on cell proliferation of 12·0–55·5% and 11·4–73·6% when treated with 200 ng/ml PRL and 10 μg/ml hPL respectively. Our data suggest that increasing levels of the protein hormones PRL and hPL, falling levels of hCG and the absence of LH and FSH in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy may play a role in the acceleration of meningioma growth in these stages of pregnancy.

Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 145, 155–161

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N. F. Perks, A. P. Murdoch, and M. C. White

In 1971 Midgeley & Jaffe published data suggesting that the plasma concentration of gonadotrophins in normal women varied in a pulsatile fashion. This observation has been confirmed subsequently and considerable effort has been directed at defining the nature and origin of the pulsatile pattern of gonadotrophin secretion in the normal and abnormal ovarian cycle. Results of these studies have shown that systemic pulses of luteinizing hormone (LH) appear to be the consequence of pulsatile stimulation of the gonadotroph by LH-releasing hormone (LHRH) in the pituitary portal capillary system (Clarke & Cummins, 1982). The major source of this pulsatile release of LHRH is the arcuate nucleus of the mediobasal hypothalamus, which is in turn controlled by higher centres in the brain. This electrophysiological control mechanism is modified by a number of factors, such as noradrenaline, endorphin and vasoactive intestinal peptide, all of which have been shown to alter the LH pulse