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V. Ilvesmäki, W. F. Blum and R. Voutilainen

ABSTRACT

Insulin-like growth factor-II (IGF-II) may be one of the most important local growth factors in human fetal adrenals (HFAs), where its mRNA levels are upregulated by ACTH. We have investigated whether protein kinase C (PKC)-dependent mechanisms and various polypeptide growth factors participate in the regulation of IGF-II gene expression in cultured HFA cells, and whether HFA cells secrete IGF-II peptide into the culture medium. ACTH enhanced IGF-II mRNA accumulation dose- and time-dependently, maximally four- to sixfold, and this increase was inhibited dose-dependently (0·01-100 μg/l) by 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA), a PKC activator. TPA decreased basal IGF-II mRNA levels by approximately 55%. Staurosporine, a PKC inhibitor, abolished the inhibitory effects of TPA and induced accumulation of IGF-II mRNA. Dibutyryl cyclic AMP, cholera toxin and forskolin increased IGF-II mRNA accumulation as much as ACTH, and TPA inhibited these stimulations in a similar way. ACTH increased the IGF-II peptide concentration in most experiments, but this increase was modest in comparison with IGF-II mRNA changes. TPA, although it decreased IGF-II mRNA levels, tended to increase IGF-II peptide in the medium. Additions of GH, IGF-I and IGF-II to the cell culture medium also increased IGF-II mRNA accumulation. Transforming growth factor-β1 inhibited IGF-II mRNA accumulation to the same extent as TPA. Epidermal growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor did not change IGF-II mRNA levels. Our results confirm previous reports that ACTH is an important regulator of IGF-II in human fetal adrenals, and show that IGF-II gene expression is under multifactorial control, which includes the PKC system and polypeptide growth factors.

Journal of Endocrinology (1993) 137, 533–542

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P. J. Miettinen, T. Otonkoski and R. Voutilainen

ABSTRACT

To understand the development of the human pancreas better, we studied the expression and regulation of insulin, insulin-like growth factor-II (IGF-II) and transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) genes in the human fetal pancreas and islet-like cell clusters (ICC) from the second trimester human fetuses. Northern blot analysis revealed an abundant expression of IGF-II, insulin and TGF-α mRNAs in the intact pancreas and the cultured ICCs. Furthermore, transcripts for insulin receptor, type-1 and -2 IGF receptors, and GH receptor could be amplified by polymerase chain reaction analysis from the pancreas and the ICCs. With in-situ hybridization, IGF-II mRNA was found in abundance in both the exocrine and endocrine pancreas, exceeding the amount of insulin mRNA. In ICCs, insulin mRNA-containing cells were present as small clusters in the periphery and in the centre of the clusters corresponding to the immunolocation of insulin. The ICCs also contained many epidermal growth factor-, insulin- and type-1 IGF receptor- and TGF-α-positive cells.

When the ICCs were cultured in the presence of various secretagogues, only dibutyryl cyclic AMP was found to up-regulate insulin mRNA (39%; P < 0·05). IGF-II mRNA was also under cyclic AMP-dependent regulation (threefold increase; P = 0·025). Furthermore, blocking the type-1 IGF receptor with a monoclonal receptor antibody drastically reduced insulin expression (87%; P = 0·005) and additionally down-regulated IGF-II mRNA (49%; P = 0·005). IGF-1, IGF-II, TGF-α or epidermal growth factor-receptor antibody had no significant effect on either insulin or IGF-II mRNA. Exogenous TGF-α inhibited the release of insulin by the ICCs. It was concluded that IGF-II and TGF-α may be involved in the regulation of islet growth and differentiation.

Journal of Endocrinology (1993) 138, 127–136

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T Vanttinen, J Liu, C Hyden-Granskog and R Voutilainen

Pituitary gonadotropins mediate part of their effects on ovarian function via local hormones and growth factors produced by granulosa cells. Activins and inhibins are among these factors, and they have often opposite effects on various components of the reproductive system. The purpose of this study was to investigate the regulation of ovarian activin A secretion using cultured human ovarian granulosa-luteal cells as a model. The granulosa-luteal cells, obtained from women taking part in an in vitro fertilization program, were cultured and treated with FSH, LH, 8-bromo cAMP (8-BrcAMP, a protein kinase A activator) and 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA, a protein kinase C activator). Conditioned cell culture media were analyzed for activin A, inhibin A and progesterone concentrations with specific enzyme immunoassays. FSH and LH (1-100 IU/l) increased activin A secretion with 24 h of treatment (to 132% and 253% of control respectively; P<0.05 for both), but their effects were inhibitory in 48-h treatments (26% and 16% decreases respectively; P<0.05 for both). In the same experiments, FSH and LH increased inhibin A and progesterone secretion after both 24 and 48 h of treatment. 8-BrcAMP (0.1-100 muM) increased activin A in 24- and 48-h experiments (to 206% and 148% of control respectively; P<0.01 for both). Inhibin A and progesterone secretion were stimulated by 8-BrcAMP time- and dose-dependently. TPA increased activin A secretion dose-dependently (0.1-100 ng/ml) in both 24- and 48-h experiments. At 100 ng/ml concentration, it increased activin A up to 61-fold and inhibin A up to 16-fold of control in 24-h experiments. We conclude that gonadotropins regulate immunoreactive activin A secretion biphasically in cultured human granulosa-luteal cells: initial stimulation is followed by inhibition. In contrast, gonadotropins increase inhibin A and progesterone secretion continuously. Consequently, continuing gonadotropin stimulation leads to a decreasing activin:inhibin ratio, which may have a significant role in the local fine-tuning of ovarian steroidogenesis.

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J Liu, P Heikkila, AI Kahri and R Voutilainen

Activin A (a homodimer of two activin betaA subunits) has been shown to induce the neuronal differentiation of rat pheochromocytoma PC12 cells. We studied activin A and its receptor gene expression in human pheochromocytomas in vivo and in vitro to clarify the potential involvement of activin A in the pathophysiology of these tumors. We first screened 20 pheochromocytomas and nine normal adrenal tissues for activin betaA mRNA expression. Northern blots hybridized with specific oligonucleotide probes detected weak signals for activin betaA transcripts in pheochromocytomas. Both type I and type II activin receptor (ActR-I, ActR-IB and ActR-II) mRNA expression was also detectable in the pheochromocytoma tissues. In primary cultures of pheochromocytoma cells, expression of activin betaA mRNA was readily detectable by Northern blotting, and secretion of activin A into the conditioned medium was confirmed by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The expression of activin betaA mRNA and secretion of activin A were induced by (Bu)(2)cAMP after 1 and 3 days of treatment (all P<0.05). A protein kinase inhibitor, staurosporine, inhibited the basal and (Bu)(2)cAMP-induced accumulation of activin betaA mRNA (P<0.05). In addition, induction of chromaffin phenotype by dexamethasone also inhibited the basal and (Bu)(2)cAMP-induced expression of activin A at both mRNA and protein levels (all P<0.05). In contrast, the expression of ActR-I and ActR-IB mRNAs was not affected by these agents in cultured pheochromocytoma cells. In summary, activin betaA subunit and activin receptors are expressed in human pheochromocytomas. Production of activin A in cultured pheochromocytoma cells is induced through the protein kinase A pathway, but reduced during chromaffin differentiation. Therefore, activin A may function as a local neurotrophic factor via an auto/paracrine manner in human pheochromocytomas.

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J Liu, R Voutilainen, A I Kahri and P Heikkilä

Abstract

We have analyzed the expression of the c-myc proto-oncogene in human adrenal glands in vivo and in primary cell cultures by Northern blot analysis. c-myc mRNA was consistently expressed in all human adrenals studied. Expression in adult adrenals was found to be approximately 50% of that in fetal adrenals, but much higher than that in adult liver and kidney. Adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) treatment increased c-myc mRNA accumulation dose- and time-dependently up to more than 5-fold (on average), with the maximal effect at 2 h. (Bu)2cAMP and 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol 13-acetate (TPA) also induced c-myc gene expression. There was no synergistic effect between the ACTH, (Bu)2cAMP and TPA treatments. The basal level of c-myc expression was reduced by the protein kinase inhibitors H-7 (1-(5-isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-methyl-piperazine dihydrochloride), staurosporine and HA1004 (N-(2-guanidinoethyl)-5-isoquinolinesulfonamide hydrochloride). H-7 totally abolished ACTH-, TPA- and (Bu)2cAMP-induced c-myc expression, while staurosporine inhibited the stimulatory effects of ACTH and TPA, and HA1004 weakly inhibited the effects of ACTH and (Bu)2cAMP. Incubation with cycloheximide or 10% fetal calf serum increased c-myc mRNA levels 3- and 4-fold respectively. Our data show that the c-myc gene is expressed abundantly in normal human adrenals, and that this expression can be regulated by multiple factors in the primary cultures.

Journal of Endocrinology (1996) 148, 523–529

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J Liu, P Heikkilä, A I Kahri and R Voutilainen

Abstract

The steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) has recently been shown to be a factor necessary for cholesterol transport into adrenal and gonadal mitochondria, which is the regulated, rate-limiting step in steroidogenesis. We show here that StAR mRNA is highly expressed in normal adult adrenals (n=9), adrenocortical adenomas (n=16), adrenal hyperplasias (n=6), adrenocortical carcinomas (n=6) and adrenals adjacent to tumor tissues (n=9). There was a good correlation between the expression of StAR and the cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme/20,22-desmolase (P450 scc) mRNAs both in normal (r=0·93; P<0·01) and in tumor (r=0·97; P<0·001) tissues. No StAR mRNA was detected in Northern blots of liver, kidney, breast, parathyroid or phaeochromocytoma RNAs.

In cultured adrenocortical cells, adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), (Bu)2cAMP, and cholera toxin increased StAR and P450 scc mRNA accumulation 6- to 18-fold, dose-and time-dependently. StAR (and P450 scc) mRNA increased relatively slowly in response to ACTH treatment, with the maximal increment at 24 h, while the mRNA of the early response gene c-fos peaked within 2 h. The protein kinase inhibitor H-7 inhibited basal and ACTH-induced StAR mRNA expression. Our results show that StAR mRNA is expressed at high levels in normal human adrenals and adrenocortical neoplasms. It is up-regulated in parallel with P450 scc by ACTH in adult adrenocortical cells, which suggests that ACTH is at least one of the key regulators of adrenal StAR expression.

Journal of Endocrinology (1996) 150, 43–50

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J. Arola, P. Heikkilä, R. Voutilainen and A. I. Kahri

ABSTRACT

ACTH has a biphasic effect on the proliferation of fetal rat adrenocortical cells in primary culture. Dramatic changes occurred during the first 72 h of ACTH stimulation, when incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine was used as an indicator of proliferation. The primary effect of ACTH was the inhibition of proliferation during the first 24 h, which was followed by an intense stimulatory phase during the third day of ACTH treatment. Cycloheximide (a protein synthesis inhibitor) prevented both the inhibitory and the stimulatory effects of ACTH, but did not affect the basal proliferation of unstimulated zona glomerulosa-like cells. Although adrenocortical cells stimulated with cyclic AMP (cAMP) derivatives, 8-bromo cAMP (8-Br cAMP) or dibutyryl cAMP ((Bu)2cAMP), differentiated morphologically into fasciculata-like cells, and secreted corticosterone and 18-OH-deoxycorticosterone, as did ACTH-stimulated cells, neither of the derivatives inhibited proliferation during the first 24 h of treatment. In contrast to ACTH, (Bu)2cAMP had a stimulatory effect on bromodeoxyuridine incorporation during the first 24 h of treatment. 8-Br cAMP did not change proliferation during the 24 h of treatment, but had a stimulatory effect after 72 h, which was not seen with (Bu)2cAMP.

Thus, these results suggest that (1) differentiation, steroid hormone synthesis and the mitogenic effect of ACTH are transduced through the cAMP-mediated system, (2) the antimitogenic effect of ACTH is transduced via a cAMP-independent pathway and (3) both antimitogenic and mitogenic effects of ACTH are dependent on protein synthesis.

Journal of Endocrinology (1993) 139, 451–461

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J Liu, R Voutilainen, A I Kahri and P Heikkilä

Abstract

Abundant c-myc gene expression in neoplasms has been often linked to poor prognosis. As c-myc mRNA is expressed and hormonally regulated in human adrenals, we examined the c-myc gene expression in adrenal tumors by RNA analysis and immunohistochemistry to find out the possible role of c-myc in adrenal neoplasms. The abundant expression of the c-myc gene in normal adrenals was localized to the zona fasciculata and zona reticularis, with much lower expression in the zona glomerulosa and adrenal medulla. In hormonally active adrenocortical carcinomas (n=6) and in virilizing adenomas (n=4), c-myc mRNA levels were approximately 10% of those in normal adrenals (n=11). In contrast, adrenal adenomas from patients with Cushing's (n=4) and Conn's (n=9) syndrome, non-functional adenomas (n=2), adrenocortical hyperplasias (bilateral, n=5; nodular, n=4), and non-functional adrenocortical carcinomas (n=3) expressed c-myc mRNA to the same extent as normal adrenals. The c-myc mRNA abundance in benign adrenal pheochromocytomas (n=19) was similar to that in normal adrenal medulla. However, in malignant adrenal pheochromocytomas (n=6), the average c-myc mRNA levels were approximately threefold that in benign adrenal pheochromocytomas. There was a good correlation between c-myc mRNA expression and immunohistochemical reactivity in both normal and pathological adrenal tissues. Southern blot analysis revealed no amplification or rearrangement of the c-myc gene in any of the adrenal tumors.

In conclusion, c-myc expression localized to zona fasciculata and reticularis in normal adrenals. Virilizing adenomas and hormonally active adrenocortical carcinomas expressed c-myc mRNA clearly less than the other adrenal neoplasms and normal adrenal tissue. On the other hand, malignant pheochromocytomas contained more c-myc mRNA than benign ones. Further studies are required to clarify the mechanisms and significance for the distinct expression pattern of the c-myc gene in different adrenal neoplasms.

Journal of Endocrinology (1997) 152, 175–181

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J Arola, P Heikkilä, R Voutilainen and A I Kahri

Abstract

ACTH exerts a biphasic effect on the growth of fetal rat adrenocortical cells in primary culture when bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation is used as an indicator of proliferation. The immediate inhibitory effect during the first 24 h of ACTH stimulation is not dependent on cyclic AMP (cAMP). Protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitors H-7 and staurosporine blocked this inhibitory effect of ACTH, whereas 12-0-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA; a PKC activator) mimicked the ACTH-induced antimitogenic effect. The stimulatory growth effect of ACTH appears after 72 h of treatment. A similar mitogenic effect is also achieved with cAMP derivative 8-bromo cAMP (8-Br cAMP). However, both ACTH- and 8-Br cAMP-induced proliferations could be reduced with H-7.

ACTH-induced corticosterone secretion was inhibited 50% with H-7 after 24 h, but 8-Br cAMP-induced secretion was unaffected. However, if the treatments were continued for 72 h, H-7 no longer reduced the steroid secretions. Reduction (50–75%) of cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450scc) mRNA expression was also noted with H-7 in ACTH-treated cultures after 6 and 24 h. In contrast, TPA doubled the corticosterone secretion induced by 8-Br cAMP, but did not further increase the ACTH-induced secretion after 24 h. TPA alone, however, was not able to induce steroid secretion or P450scc mRNA expression. The morphological differentiation of fetal rat adrenocortical cells with ACTH or 8-Br cAMP from zona glomerulosa-like cells into zona fasciculata-like cells was not disturbed by H-7 nor was it induced by TPA alone.

These results therefore suggest that PKC- and cAMP-dependent signal transductions are involved in the ACTH-induced biphasic growth effect of fetal rat adrenocortical cells. PKC plays a role in the inhibitory growth effect, and both PKC and cAMP are involved in the stimulatory growth phase of ACTH. Both PKC and cAMP are also involved in the steroid secretion of zona glomerulosa-type cells, but differentiation into zona fasciculata-type cells and their steroid production is transduced through cAMP.

Journal of Endocrinology (1994) 141, 285–293

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T Vanttinen, J Liu, T Kuulasmaa, P Kivinen and R Voutilainen

Activins and inhibins are structurally related glycoprotein hormones modulating pituitary FSH secretion and gonadal steroidogenesis. Activins and inhibins are also produced in the adrenal cortex where their physiological role is poorly known. Hormonally active human adrenocortical tumors express and secrete inhibins, while in mice adrenal inhibins may function as tumor suppressors. To clarify the significance of adrenal activins and inhibins we investigated the localization of activin/inhibin signaling components in the adrenal gland, and the effects of activins and inhibins on adrenocortical steroidogenesis and apoptosis.Activin receptor type II/IIB and IB, activin signal transduction proteins Smad2/3, and inhibin receptor betaglycan were expressed throughout the adrenal cortex, whereas Smad4 expression was seen mainly in the zona reticularis and the innermost zona fasciculata as evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Treatment of cultured adrenocortical carcinoma NCI-H295R cells with activin A inhibited steroidogenic acute regulatory protein and 17alpha-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase mRNA accumulation as evaluated by the Northern blot technique, and decreased cortisol, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate secretion as determined by specific enzyme immunoassays. Activin A increased apoptosis as measured by a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase in situ apoptosis detection method. Inhibins had no effect on steroidogenesis or apoptosis.In summary, activin/inhibin signaling components are coexpressed in the zona reticularis and the innermost zona fasciculata indicating full signaling potential for adrenal activins and inhibins in these layers. Activin inhibits steroidogenic enzyme gene expression and steroid secretion, and increases apoptosis in human adrenocortical cells. Thus, the activin-inhibin system may have a significant role in the regulation of glucocorticoid and androgen production and apoptotic cell death in the human adrenal cortex.