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R G Pestell, V E Hammond and R J Crawford

ABSTRACT

DNA elements governing transcription of the ovine cytochrome P-450 side-chain cleavage (CYP11A1) gene were investigated. Three overlapping genomic clones for the ovine CYP11A1 gene were isolated and characterized. The transcriptional start site was located 51 nucleotides upstream from the initiating methionine. Gene transfer experiments were conducted in murine adrenocortical Y1 cells and human choriocarcinoma JEG-3 cells using chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter gene constructs containing promoter fragments from −2700 to −177 bp.

The results demonstrate that DNA elements sufficient to convey a basal level of expression and cyclic AMP (cAMP) responsiveness lie within 177 bp of the transcriptional start, although the possibility that additional regulatory elements reside outside this 177 bp has not been excluded. The ovine 5′ flanking sequence demonstrated 92% homology with the bovine sequence, extending over the entire fragment. In contrast, only four significant regions of conservation between the ovine, murine, rat and human CYP11A1 promoters were found. These regions are positioned within 200 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site.

DNase 1 footprinting was performed to identify DNA elements able to bind nuclear proteins. Primary adrenocortical and placental tissues from sheep were used as the source of nuclear extracts to detect DNA-protein interactions relevant to CYP11A1 gene expression in vivo. Five regions of protection were detected in the first −634 bp of the ovine CYP11A1 promoter. Three of these elements corresponded to the regions which are well-conserved between species. The other two elements resembled activating protein-1 (AP-1) and AP-4 sites and overlapping AP-2/Sp1 sites, and are conserved in the bovine gene but not in other species.

Nuclear protein extracts from adrenals of sheep with different serum ACTH levels (i.e. ACTH-treated, dexamethasone-treated and untreated sheep) protected similar regions of the ovine CYP11A1 promoter fragment. Similarly, the regions protected did not differ when nuclear protein from JEG-3 cells treated with cAMP was compared with that of untreated JEG-3 cells. These results suggest that induction of CYP11A1 gene transcription by ACTH in the ovine adrenal and by cAMP in JEG-3 cells in culture is not mediated by changes in binding of the proteins that interact directly with these footprinted elements.

The elements footprinted by extracts from primary ovine tissue lie within the 177 bp sufficient for cAMP-regulated expression. The correspondence of these elements either to regions conserved between species or to known consensus binding sites suggests that these sequences are cis elements involved in regulating transcription of the ovine CYP11A1 gene in vivo.

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Fabiana Cornejo Maciel, Paula Maloberti, Isabel Neuman, Florencia Cano, Rocío Castilla, Fernanda Castillo, Cristina Paz and Ernesto J Podestá

We have described that, in adrenal and Leydig cells, the hormonal regulation of free arachidonic acid (AA) concentration is mediated by the concerted action of two enzymes: an acyl-CoA thioesterase (MTE-I or ARTISt) and an acyl-CoA synthetase (ACS4). In this study we analyzed the potential regulation of these proteins by hormonal action in steroidogenic cells. We demonstrated that ACS4 is rapidly induced by adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and cAMP in Y1 adrenocortical cells. The hormone and its second messenger increased ACS4 protein levels in a time and concentration dependent way. Maximal concentration of ACTH (10 mIU/ml) produced a significant effect after 15 min of treatment and exerted the highest increase (3-fold) after 30 min. Moreover, 35S-methionine incorporation showed that the increase in ACS4 protein levels is due to an increase in the de novo synthesis of the protein. On the contrary MTE-I protein levels in Y1 and MA-10 cells did not change after steroidogenic stimuli. In contrast with the effect observed on protein levels, stimulation of both cell lines did not change ACS4 RNA levels during the first hour of treatment, indicating that the effect of both stimuli is exerted at the level of ACS4 protein synthesis.

StAR protein induction has a key role on the activation of steroidogenesis since this protein increases the rate of the limiting step of the whole process. In agreement with the fact that the inhibition of ACS4 activity by triacsin C blocks cAMP-stimulated progesterone production by MA-10 Leydig cells, here we demonstrated that ACS4 inhibition also reduces StAR protein levels. Moreover, exogenous AA was able to overcome the effect of triacsin C on both events, StAR induction and steroidogenesis. These results were confirmed by experiments using ACS4-targeted siRNA which result in a reduction in both ACS4 and StAR protein levels. The concomitant decrease in steroid production was overcome by the addition of AA to the knocked-out cells. In summary, this study suggests that in adrenal and Leydig cells the hormonal action prompts the synthesis of a labile protein, ACS4, which activity is involved in the regulation of AA release and is essential for steroidogenesis and StAR protein induction.

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Gregory S Y Ong and Morag J Young

The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and mineralocorticoids regulate epithelial handling of electrolytes, and induces diverse effects on other tissues. Traditionally, the effects of MR were ascribed to ligand–receptor binding and activation of gene transcription. However, the MR also utilises a number of intracellular signalling cascades, often by transactivating unrelated receptors, to change cell function more rapidly. Although aldosterone is the physiological mineralocorticoid, it is not the sole ligand for MR. Tissue-selective and mineralocorticoid-specific effects are conferred through the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2, cellular redox status and properties of the MR itself. Furthermore, not all aldosterone effects are mediated via MR, with implication of the involvement of other membrane-bound receptors such as GPER. This review will describe the ligands, receptors and intracellular mechanisms available for mineralocorticoid hormone and receptor signalling and illustrate their complex interactions in physiology and disease.

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Y. de Keyzer, M.-F. Rousseau-Merck, J.-P. Luton, F. Girard, A. Kahn and X. Bertagna

ABSTRACT

Phaeochromocytoma is an occasional cause of the ectopic ACTH syndrome. The mechanisms of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) gene expression were analysed in 11 human tumours not associated with Cushing's syndrome, by detecting and characterizing the POMC mRNA. A DNA probe corresponding to most of the protein-coding region of the third exon was used in Northern blot studies of total and poly(A)+ RNA. All tumours contained a short (800 bases) mRNA species different from the 1200 base mRNA species of the human pituitary. This short mRNA was also present in the normal adrenal, where S1 mapping showed that it resulted from transcription initiation within the third exon. However, in two tumours, equivalent amounts of the 1200 base mRNA were also present, and in one of them a third POMC mRNA of approximately 1450 bases was detected. These data show that POMC gene expression occurs in all phaeochromocytomas. It is suggested that excess production of the 1200 bases (or the larger, 1450 base) mRNA in some tumours may be responsible for the rare occurrence of the ectopic ACTH syndrome.

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P. J. D. Delhanty and V. K. M. Han

ABSTRACT

We have isolated an ovine insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-2 (IGFBP-2) cDNA from an adult sheep cDNA library, to determine the structure of ovine IGFBP-2 and to examine the pattern of IGFBP-2 gene expression in adult sheep tissues. This cDNA had 81, 96 and 87% identity with the rat, bovine and human sequences respectively. The deduced amino acid sequence of the ovine IGFBP-2 showed 86, 95 and 85% homology with the rat, bovine and human peptide sequences respectively. The ovine IGFBP-2 cDNA encoded a precursor protein of 317 amino acids which comprised a 33 residue hydrophobic leader sequence and a 284 residue, 30·9 kDa, mature peptide. The 18 cysteine residues, which are a characteristic feature of IGFBPs, were conserved. Also, an Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) sequence near the C terminus was present. A single transcript of∼1·5kb was expressed in abundance in selected tissues of an adult sheep, namely liver, kidney, adrenal, pituitary and choroid plexus. Southern blot analysis of ovine genomic DNA with the cDNA probe demonstrated that IGFBP-2 is encoded by a single gene. These findings indicate that the ovine IGFBP-2 protein is similar to that in other species and that, in the adult, the mRNA is expressed only in selected tissues.

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T Ohkubo, A Tsukada and K Shamoto

Orexin-A and -B are known to stimulate food intake in mammals. However, the critical roles of orexins in birds are not fully understood, since orexins have no stimulatory effect on food intake in the chicken. To understand the physiological role(s) of orexins in birds, we have cloned chicken orexin receptor (cOXR) cDNA by RT-PCR, and analysed the tIssue distribution of OXR mRNA in the chicken. The cOXR cDNA is 1869 bp long and encodes 501 amino acids. The cloned cDNA for cOXR corresponds to the type 2 OXR in mammals, and shows approximately 80% similarity to those of mammals at the amino acid level. Expression analysis by RNase protection assay revealed OXR mRNA was distributed widely in brain regions, and expression in the cerebrum, hypothalamus and optic tectum were abundant. In peripheral tIssues, OXR mRNA was expressed in the pituitary gland, adrenal gland and testis, but no mRNA expression was observed in other tIssues examined. Furthermore, we found that the amount of cOXR mRNA was different between testis and ovary, while prepro-orexin mRNA is equally expressed in the gonads of both sexes in the chicken. These data indicate that the orexins have neuroendocrine actions in chickens, which are mediated through hypothalamic receptors as has been observed in mammals. In addition, orexin may have specific role(s) in the regulation of gonadal function in which sex-dependent mechanisms could be involved.

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F. F. Bolander and M. E. Blackstone

ABSTRACT

The envelope protein, gp52, of the mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV) binds to a cell-surface receptor as a first step in infection. A protein with characteristics of this receptor was measured on freshly isolated cells using, as ligand, 125I-labelled gp52 purified from C3H/HeN mice. The gp52-binding protein was found in all mouse tissues examined, but was present at highest concentrations in the mammary gland and spleen where it reached 4.2±0.3 (s.e.m.) pmol/mg protein; the dissociation constant was 30±7 pm. Binding to mammary epithelium could be displaced by either the RIII or 34I-R strains of MMTV, and binding was blocked by antibodies to gp52. Levels in the liver and adrenal glands were only 25% of those in the mammary gland, while the concentrations in the ovary and salivary gland were intermediate. Scatchard analyses of the binding data suggested that there was only a single set of high-affinity binding sites. During late pregnancy and lactation, receptor levels in mammary epithelium rose threefold, while those in the liver and salivary gland were unchanged. This induction would result in the mammary gland having 12 times the gp52-binding protein than other tissues and may result in the preferential reinfection of this tissue during lactation, with subsequent tumour formation.

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FM Rogerson, JG LeHoux, A Lefebre and JI Mason

Complementary DNAs encoding the hamster type 2 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/delta 5-->4 isomerase were isolated from liver and kidney cDNA libraries. Nine clones were isolated containing identical coding and 3' untranslated sequences. However, six of the clones contained a 68-nucleotide stretch in the 5' untranslated region that was missing in the other three clones. Primers were designed to flank this region and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed on hamster liver and adrenal RNA. Two PCR products were amplified of the predicted molecular sizes and with the expected sequence. Primers were then designed to amplify sequences encompassing this region from hamster genomic DNA. Sequencing of the resultant PCR products demonstrated that the 68-nucleotide stretch missing in some transcripts corresponded exactly to the second of three exons identified. We conclude that the 5' untranslated region of this mRNA is transcribed from at least three exons, and that the sequence of the second of these exons is spliced out of some of the RNA transcripts.

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A. Stephanou, N. J. Sarlis, R. A. Knight, S. L. Lightman and H. S. Chowdrey

ABSTRACT

Adjuvant arthritis (AA) in the rat leads to chronic stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the loss of its diurnal rhythmicity. We have investigated the effects of adrenalectomy (ADX) and different levels of corticosterone replacement upon plasma ACTH levels and anterior pituitary pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), GH and prolactin mRNAs during the development of AA. In control ADX animals, we observed the negative feedback effects of exogenous corticosterone on plasma ACTH and anterior pituitary POMC mRNA. In the ADX animal with AA, however, the increased POMC mRNA which was observed was not reduced by exogenous corticosterone on day 7 of AA, although the negative feedback effect of corticosterone on plasma ACTH was intact. On day 14, however, even high dose corticosterone replacement failed to have a significant feedback effect on the raised levels of plasma ACTH.

In control ADX animals, corticosterone replacement resulted in increased anterior pituitary GH mRNA and reduced prolactin mRNA. In contrast, in ADX animals with AA, GH mRNA was reduced and there was a further decrease in prolactin mRNA. In these animals, corticosterone replacement did not affect GH or prolactin mRNA expression.

These data demonstrate a disruption of the normal mechanisms underlying feedback inhibition of the HPA axis by glucocorticoids during AA. Similarly, the glucocorticoid-dependent regulation of GH and prolactin mRNA expression is altered in AA.

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J Gregoire, L M Mertz and R C Pedersen

ABSTRACT

We have postulated that steroidogenesis activator polypeptide (SAP) is a product of glucose-regulated protein-78 (grp78) proteolysis on the basis of a number of considerations, including a striking sequence similarity between the carboxyl-terminal region of grp78 and SAP. Since ACTH stimulates the rapid intracellular accumulation of SAP, experiments were conducted to determine whether ACTH might also regulate levels of grp78 mRNA and/or protein. Using a grp78 cDNA probe, Northern analysis of total RNA isolated from hypophysectomized or dexamethasone-suppressed rats revealed that neither treatment had a measurable influence on steady-state levels of grp78 mRNA over a 4-day period. Moreover, immunoblotting with an antiserum directed against a shared grp78/SAP sequence failed to detect a significant change in the grp78 content of adrenal homogenates from dexamethasone-suppressed rats as compared with untreated controls. On the other hand, grp78 in cultured rat adrenocortical cells fell to 50% of that in time-zero controls after 72 h in the absence of ACTH, whereas inclusion of ACTH in the medium blocked this decline. We conclude that while adrenocortical grp78 may be under some measure of trophic ACTH control, the rapid fluctuations reported for SAP are not likely to be driven by large changes in the size of the grp78 pool.